WASHINGTON, February 21, 2013 – With her blonde curls and bright pink bow, little three-year-old Lucy Forck was no doubt looking forward to a visit to the Magic Kingdom. Instead the toddler entered the seventh layer of travel hell.
Lucy Forck, who is in a wheelchair, was nearly subjected to an invasive TSA pat-down at St. Louis, Lambert Field.
The incident happened February 9, as the girl and her family were about to fly to Disney World in Orlando, Fla. A TSA agent pulled the child to the side after an “alarm.”
The video of the incident (below) shows Lucy crying that she did not want to go to Disney World anymore, after facing TSA scrutiny.
In an interview with Fox News, Nathan Forck, an attorney, said: “They [TSA] specifically told me that they were singling her out for this special treatment because she’s in a wheelchair. They are specifically singling out disabled people for this special scrutiny. It’s rather offensive to me as a father of a disabled child.
We are not unreasonable people,” he said. “But to say you are going to do a bodily search with no probable cause whatsoever – just because she is in a wheelchair – that was offensive.”
The video records the TSA agent telling Annie Forck, the girl’s mother, it is illegal to tape the activity.
“You can’t do touch my daughter unless I record it,” Forck tells the agent.
The agent replies: “It is illegal to do that.”
“The problem is, I don’t allow anyone to touch my little daughter,” Annie Forck says.
Lucy, who has spina-bifida and is unable to walk, is seen in hysterical tears, surrounded by a wall of agents; her comfort friend, Lamby, a stuffed animal, physically taken from her.
In the video the child is surrounded by agents, and while in the same area, the child would have known that these strangers were taking control. Children are not stupid. They are intuitive.
Imagine the world of this three-year-old: you are alone, in an unfamiliar environment, more than waist-level below the officials, and you do not understand what is happening. The emotional high of anticipation of the trip, the crushing emotional low of forced take-away from comfort, the general confusion of the airport, and the noise. A totally foreign environment without kind words or nurturing support.
And you are singled out and your “best friend” taken from you.
Annie Forck clearly states, “You can’t touch my daughter” as she tries to comfort her child. The mother attempts to work with the TSA agents and comfort Lucy, begging the return of Lamby.
What a horrendous ordeal for this family to go through. An ordeal that should have started with a conversation with the parents and Lucy well before the child was subjected to the trauma of the TSA.
One must also remember, moms tell children all the time, don’t go with strangers. The TSA broke that cardinal rule.
And I know Lucy must have been terrified. Watching this video is heartbreaking.
What is worse, this is not the first time, nor the last, the TSA has taken extra steps to protect the public from children in wheelchairs. You Tube is filled with invasive treatments of children, and on the other end of the spectrum, the elderly.
A 12 year old girl that travels through Dallas-Fort Worth for medical treatment in Florida was detained because she “tested positive for explosive residue on her hands.”
The girl was kept isolated from her parents, but visible to the public, while a bomb expert was called.
Isn’t it hard enough to be 12 years old and having brittle bone disease, having to fly for medical treatments, not romps on the beach, without the TSA interference? To be singled out as though she had done something “wrong” must have been mortifying to the pre-teen, who is already different by virtue of her disease.
In another video, this one from Chicago, the precocious Rocco took his pat down pretty much in stride, but as a parent, and taxpayer, this child should not have been touched by this officer or asked to lift his shirt.
Rocco’s parents were there, the agent was polite to the child and explained the procedures, handling this situation in a much more dignified way than is usually witnessed.
The child did get upset and questioned the “weirdness.” as his father called it, of the procedures.
Everyone did his or her best to keep Rocco comfortable and prevent him from becoming upset. However this entire situation leaves me incredulous. Had I been the parent of any of these children, well I like to think I would have been as calm as Rocco’s dad who obviously put his child’s emotional well being and sense of safety before any outrage he may have felt.
At least until the ordeal was over, I hope.
The TSA Web site responds to the question “Will children receive pat-downs?” stating:
Transportation Security Officers will work with parents to resolve any alarms at the checkpoint. If required, additional screening may be conducted.
The mother of Lucy, the three-year-old child that shot the first video can be heard being told, during the procedure, by a TSA agent that the mother was not allowed to “record” TSA procedures.
Which is patently false.
The TSA responded to our inquiries regarding Lucy’s ordeal with the following statement:
TSA regrets inaccurate guidance was provided to this family during screening and offers its apology. We are committed to maintaining the security of the traveling public and strive to treat all passengers with dignity and respect. While no pat-down was performed, we will address specific concerns with our workforce.
and further confirming that:
—Passengers are permitted to film TSA procedures at the checkpoint as
long as it doesn’t interfere with the screening process.
—The child did not receive a pat-down, nor should the family have been
told one would occur. It is not part of the proper procedure.
—TSA’s Federal Security Director at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport (STL) reached out to Mr. Forck to personally apologize for the incident.
He also offered to assist the family the next time they traveled through the airport.
A related story: Communities writer Anwaar Abdallah, who was in the U.S. in January as a visiting scholar to the University of Oklahoma, told me that while she does not object to screening, that the TSA agent became “very personal” in her “pat-down” which was more groping than patting.
Another writer, Eric Golub, who was working and reliant on his computer, was searched by TSA in Miami and his laptop busted. TSA agents denied responsibility, but it worked moments before as he was emailing me.
Which all begs the question as to when the TSA is going to be brought under control and given some sensitivity training, and a clue that, as Lucy’s mother says, that a child in a bright pink wheelchair is probably not a threat to the airport, plane or other passengers.
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