NEW ORLEANS (Reuters Life!) - The parents of a 6-year-old American girl who got a pat-down at an airport security checkpoint earlier this month said Wednesday that there should be different screening procedures for children.
Dr. Todd and Selena Drexel of Bowling Green, Kentucky, said that daughter Anna was confused by the security procedure at New Orleans airport, a video of which has been widely viewed since the family posted it on YouTube.
“Afterward, she broke down with crying, because she really didn’t understand what she had done wrong,” Todd Drexel said on the Good Morning America television news show. “We were struggling to explain it to her, because we had really stressed to her that it’s not OK to be touched in certain places, and now she’s been pat down in a public setting.”
A spokesman for the Transportation Security Administration, which is responsible for screening passengers and cargo at airports, said that the search was in line with established procedures.
“TSA has reviewed the incident and determined that this officer followed proper current screening procedures,” agency spokesman Jim Fotenos said in a statement.
He said that TSA Administrator John Pistole had directed the agency to explore “additional ways to focus its resources and move beyond a one-size fits all system while maintaining a high level of security.”
Fotenos said TSA has been reviewing its policies in an effort “to streamline and improve the screening experience for low-risk populations, such as younger passengers.”
The YouTube video shows Anna and Selena Drexel at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport on April 5. A female TSA screener asks Anna to stand near her mother with her arms extended and does a patdown search similar to those routinely performed on adult travelers.
The screener runs her gloved hands along both sides of the Anna’s head and along each arm; along the sides, front and back of the girl’s torso, hips and thighs, and runs both hands along each leg from crotch to foot. The screener also slides her fingers along the inside of the neckline and waistband of the girl’s shirt and jeans, explaining each step of the search as she goes.
A spokeswoman for the New Orleans airport declined to comment on the incident, referring questions to the TSA.
Selena Drexel said on Good Morning America that the family was heading home from a vacation, traveling with Anna as well as their two other daughters, ages 9 and 2. She said Anna was selected for a patdown, and that she asked that her daughter be rescanned instead but that her request was denied.
“They just said they were going to do what they were going to do,” Selena Drexel said.
Asked why she posted a video of the incident on YouTube, Selena Drexel said that she wanted other people to see it so that she could get others’ opinions about it.
“We felt that it was inappropriate,” she said. “We struggle to teach our children to protect themselves, and to say ‘no’ and ‘it’s not OK for folks to touch me in those areas,’ and here we are saying it’s OK for these people.”
Todd Drexel is an obstetrician-gynecologist. A receptionist at his office Wednesday said he was not immediately available for comment.
Reporting by Kathy Finn in New Orleans and Steve Robrahn in Louisville, Kentucky; Editing by Corrie MacLaggan and Greg McCune