Hands off our dignity

TSA agents stoop to frightening children in the name of safety

Have you just gotten rudely frisked or groped by an airport security agent?

There’s an app for that.

With the boom in application software and widgets for mobile devices – and the predictably steady flow of air-travel complaints – we’re surprised no one has hit upon this sooner. A new app, launched Monday by a Sikh advocacy group, allows air passengers to immediately report and document incidents in which they feel they have been mistreated by Transportation Security Administration employees.

Will it catch on? If the TSA continues its outrageous tradition of uneven security enforcement, the app’s business could skyrocket.

We’ll point out just two of the TSA’s most recent assaults on dignity and common sense:

• A family missed its April 23 flight from New York City to Florida because agents decided the family’s 7-year-old daughter, who has cerebral palsy, was somehow a security risk.

The girl wears metal braces and uses crutches, so she couldn’t pass through a metal detector. Instead, agents aggressively handled her without even attempting to make her feel at ease – traumatizing the girl and infuriating her parents.

• In Wichita, Kan., a woman and her 4-year-old granddaughter had successfully passed through airport security. But while the grandmother awaited a pat-down after tripping an alarm, the girl innocently ran over to quickly hug Grandma.

That’s when TSA agents insisted on a pat-down for the 4-year-old – a little girl who had just learned about “stranger danger” in school and how people you don’t know shouldn’t touch you.

Terrified, the girl ran – prompting shouts from the TSA, according to the grandmother, that if her family couldn’t grab the girl, they would shut down the entire airport.

Oh, and we should add that the little girl had nightmares about the incident for days.

There’s an initial absurdity in searching children for weapons or explosives at an airport. But we’re dealing with enemies who aren’t above using children as unwitting tools to perpetrate horrific terrorist acts. The TSA supposedly has special search protocols for children ages 12 and younger.

So why doesn’t the TSA have any special protocols governing sensitivity?

At airports we’re peered at, poked at and manhandled in demeaning ways so myriad that a website called “TSA Goons” was started last year to help keep track of it all.

But children and people with disabilities are among our most fragile Americans, and they require especially respectful treatment when it comes to airport screenings.

If these ham-handed TSA agents can’t even summon an ounce of compassion toward adults, how on Earth are they going to go the extra mile to convey friendly, calming authority to children?

Can’t agents be trained to provide some humanity during often arduous airport screenings?

The TSA might think that groping us for contraband makes us more secure, but in some ways it actually makes us feel even more insecure.

While they’re searching, they should keep their hands off our dignity.

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