April 13, 2011 -- The family of the 6-year-old girl who received a pat down at airport security in New Orleans said today there needs to be a different screening process for children.
"We struggle to teach our kids to protect themselves, to say 'no, it's not ok to touch me in this way in this area," the girl's mother, Selena Drexel, said. "Yet here we are saying it's ok for these people." If we don't find other ways we're making them more vulnerable, she said.
Drexel and her husband, Dr. Todd Drexel, of Bowling Green, Ky., appeared this morning in an exclusive interview with "Good Morning America."
A video of the couple's daughter going through the screening went viral on the Internet, getting thousands of views on sites like YouTube. It shows a TSA agent rubbing the young girl's inner thighs and running her fingers inside the top of the girl's blue jeans.
The Drexels said they stood powerless, watching as their daughter was patted down.
"I did ask for alternatives, I asked for her to be rescanned," Selena Drexel said. "They just refused and said they were going to do what they were going to do."
Selena Drexel said she could only speculate as to why the 6-year-old was selected for the pat down. She said that the TSA supervisor made it clear "non-verbally" that there would be trouble if she caused a fuss.
The girl's father said that while his daughter was polite and respectful during the screening, she broke down into tears afterwards.
"Initially she was just confused," Todd Drexel said. "She really didn't understand what she had done wrong."
He said he and his wife struggled with how to explain to their child what had happened after teaching her previously it was not ok to be touched in certain places. "Now she's been pat down in a public setting, in an airport."
The family was leaving New Orleans Armstrong International Airport when the incident happened on April 5. The Drexels have two other children, a 9-year-old and a 2-year-old.
The TSA said it has reviewed the tape and that the "officer followed proper current screening procedures." They added they "are exploring additional ways to focus its resources and move beyond a one-sized-fits-all system."
Sharyn Alfonsi contributed to this report.