Watch Your Hands: Texas TSA Under Fire For Thorough Pat-Down of Teenage Boy

Kevork Djansezian / Reuters

The Dallas Airport Transportation Security Administration “TSA” is facing sharp criticism for their handling of a Special-Needs Teenager during the security check.  Nobody enjoys getting checked by TSA Agents even if you have nothing to hide. Navigating traffic and instructions both inside and outside of the airport can be a huge hassle in itself.  But when TSA agents make it more difficult it can ruin a trip. Most people desire and expect the security check process to go as quickly and efficiently as possible so they can relax, grab a carry-on meal, and find their gate well before boarding time. However, for one Texas family, they didn’t even make it to the terminal.

Jennifer Williamson claims TSA agents at the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport treated her and her family “like dogs” and “deliberately” kept them from making their flight. Williamson’s 13-year-old son suffers from sensory processing disorder, which causes him to be hypersensitive to touch and other stimulation. Due to his medical condition, Williamson asked the TSA agents to screen her son in a different manner than the standard “pat down.”  However, TSA agents denied and proceeded to pat her son down very thoroughly.

Williamson posted a 2-minute video on her Facebook page of her son getting patted down. The lengthy and uncomfortable interchange caused the family to miss their flight. In the post, which has over 6 million views, Williamson says —

“We were treated like dogs because I requested they attempt to screen him in other ways per TSA rules. He has SPD and I didn’t want my child given a pat down like this. Let me make something else crystal clear. He set off NO alarms. He physically did not alarm at all during screening, he passed through the detector just fine. He is still several hours later saying “I don’t know what I did. What did I do?” I am livid. Please, share… make this viral like the other children’s videos with TSA… I wish I had taped the entire interchange because it was horrifying. We had two DFW police officers that were called and flanking him on each side. Somehow these power tripping TSA agents who are traumatizing children and doing whatever they feel like without any cause, need to be reined in.”

Williamson told CBS News that the incident began when agents found her son’s book bag, prompting the pat-down search. Williamson believes the pat-down of her son was excessive and uncalled for, however, TSA officials believe the agent in question was following protocol.

“The video shows a male TSA officer explaining the procedure to the passenger, who fully cooperates,” their statement reads. “Afterward, the TSA officer was instructed by his supervisor, who was observing, to complete the final step of the screening process. In total, the pat-down took approximately two minutes, and was observed by the mother and two police officers who were called to mitigate the concerns of the mother.”

While most people are outraged by the video and post, some commentators believe the TSA agent was simply doing his job. “Every airline has to flag x amount of random people to get the extra security check. None of these comments would be here if the kid above was of a different skin tone, now would they? It’s an equal and fair law to keep us safe when flying,” one comment read.

TSA official guidelines for disabilities and medical conditions reads:
“To ensure your security, all travelers are required to undergo screening at the checkpoint. You or your traveling companion may consult the TSA officer about the best way to relieve any concerns during the screening process. You may provide the officer with the TSA notification card or other medical documentation to describe your condition. If you have other questions or concerns about traveling with a disability please contact passenger support.”

TSA recently upped security and increased the number of full pat-downs due to TSA agents finding a record number of firearms during routine screenings last month. But is it legal to basically graze a person’s private parts? What is the legally acceptable amount of times allowed to go over a person’s body? What were the mother’s legal options at the time if she felt they went too far?

It seems like Williamson tried to consult the TSA officer about the best way to relieve concerns during the screening process but those were ignored. What’s your opinion on the video? Did the TSA officer get too handsy or was he simply doing his job?


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