Airport Security Amends Policy on Child Pat Downs

Viral videos of children getting pat downs at airports prompts change.

June 22, 2011, 5:56 PM

June 22, 2011 -- After months of viral videos showing children getting pat downs at airports and subsequent parental outcry, the Transportation Security Administration will change its policy for screening small children.

TSA Chief John Pistole said "repeated efforts" would be made to resolve issues surrounding children and pat downs. Pistole said today at a Senate hearing that he would announce further changes soon.

"As part of our ongoing effort to get smarter about security, administrator Pistole has made a policy decision to give security officers more options for resolving screening anomalies with young children, and we are working to operationalize his decision in airports. This decision will ultimately reduce -- though not eliminate -- pat downs of children," said TSA spokesperson Nicholas Kimball in a written statement.

At today's Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Senate Committee hearing, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., highlighted an April incident in which a 6-year-old girl was patted down by an airport security officer. Paul held up a large photo of a TSA official running her gloved hands down the girl's inner thigh.

The girl's story made headlines after her parents posted a video of the pat down on YouTube.

"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, yet here we are saying it's OK for these people," the girl's mother, Selena Drexel, told "Good Morning America's" Robin Roberts.

Pistole said today that officials pat the young girl down because she moved in the security scanner, blurring the image.

A similar story surfaced in May when a photo of TSA officials inspecting an infant at the Kansas City International airport was posted on Twitter.

"Just saw #tsa agents patting down a little baby at @KCIAirport Pretty sure that's extreme," the Rev. Jacob Jester tweeted.

TSA officials said the baby's stroller had set off an alarm, prompting the pat down.

In both instances, TSA spokespersons said officials had followed proper screening protocol.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry revived a bill earlier this week that would make it a criminal offense for airport security officials to touch "the anus, sexual organ, buttocks or breast of another person," even through clothing.

Perry placed the bill back on the agenda for the Texas Legislature's special session, which runs through June 29. The bill passed the statehouse during the regular session but died in the Senate after federal authorities warned its passage could lead to canceled flights.

"Should a bill pass that limits the ability of TSA and its employees to perform its responsibilities and jeopardizes the safety of the public, we will take whatever legal action is appropriate to ensure travelers are safe when they fly from Texas or any other state," Soule said.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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