NOTE: BuzzFeed flipped the YouTube video to make it easier to view. The original video can be seen below the article.
The Transportation Security Administration detained a three-year-old and confiscated her stuffed animal because the little girl was in a wheelchair and therefore required “additional screening measures.”
Fox News Radio reports that the incident occurred on Feb. 9 at Lambert-St. Louis Airport.
Nathan and Annie Forck were travelling to Disney World with their three children for a family vacation. The couple’s three-year-old daughter Lucy has Spina bifida and is confined to a wheelchair.
The family had no problems passing through the TSA security checkpoint, but an agent stopped them on their way to the gate, saying that Lucy needed to go through an additional screening process. When the Forcks questioned the TSA agent, he said that they needed to pat down Lucy and swab her wheelchair.
“They specifically told me that they were singling her out for this special treatment because she’s in a wheelchair,” Nathan Forck told Fox News. “They are specifically singling out disabled people for this special scrutiny. It’s rather offensive to me as a father of a disabled child.”
When the agent confiscated the three-year-old’s stuffed animal, a fluffy sheep named “Lamby,” Annie Forck whipped out her phone and began filming a video of the exchange.
“You can’t touch my daughter unless I record it,” Annie Forck can be heard saying.
“It’s illegal to do that,” the agent replied.
“The problem is, I don’t allow anyone to touch my little daughter,” Annie Forck countered. When she refused to turn off her phone, a group of TSA agents were called over to surround the family and “guard” the increasingly distraught Lucy.
In the video, the wheelchair-bound girl can be seen sobbing uncontrollably, at one point screaming, “I don’t want to go Disney World!”
After 30 minutes, the Forcks were re-screened, Lucy was reunited with her “Lamby,” and the TSA allowed the family continue on their trip.
“All of this because I didn’t want them to touch my child’s body,” Annie Forck comments in the video of the incident, which she uploaded to YouTube.
Nathan Forck told Fox News Radio that they were not trying to make a scene at the airport, and that while certain levels of security are needed at airports, he believes what happened in St. Louis was inappropriate.
“We were going to stand our ground and state very clearly what they could and could not do to our child,” he said. “It was very disheartening. It broke my heart that Lucy had to go through that on the way to — of all places — Disney World.”
5. The video (with commentary from Annie Forck) as it was uploaded to YouTube:
7. UPDATE: TSA released a statement about the incident on their blog:
Clarification on the Screening of 3-Year-Old Girl at Lambert–St. Louis International Airport
An incident involving a girl in her wheelchair has been getting a lot of attention. I’ve been reading a lot of articles, tweets, and posts about this and I feel some clarification is needed. First off, we regret that this happened and TSA has apologized directly to the family for their inconvenience at the airport.
What we did:
1.) Our officer did initially mention a pat-down. We admit this was confusing, and contributed to a stressful situation. Very quickly, a manager was able to step in and give guidance.
2.) Also, our officer told the passenger that it was illegal to film at the checkpoint. This is not the case, and you can take a look at our filming policy here.
3.) TSA’s Federal Security Director at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport (STL) reached out to personally apologize for the incident. He also offered to assist the family the next time they traveled through the airport.
What we didn’t do:
1.) The child did not receive a pat-down. You can read our new procedures for children 12 and under here.
2.) Neither the child nor the parent was detained. TSA does not have the authority to detain passengers. Only Law Enforcement Officers can detain passengers.
3.) The child’s stuffed animal was not confiscated. It was screened and handed back to the child after being screened. All accessible property is screened prior to traveling to your departure gate. You may remember this stuffed animal from last year.
Incidents like this can trigger a lot of emotions, but please keep the TSA’s mission in mind. We are committed to maintaining the security of the traveling public. This will be addressed with our workforce so we can continue to treat all passengers with the dignity and respect they deserve.
We continue to receive overwhelmingly positive reports about our TSA Cares Help Line and strongly suggest that passengers with disabilities and medical conditions call this number if they have questions or are concerned about their upcoming travel through a TSA checkpoint.