The TSA is facing a public backlash on social media after a mother filmed her son being patted down at a security checkpoint at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.
Jennifer Williamson posted a video to Facebook of her 13-year-old son Aaron going through a thorough pat-down at a Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport TSA checkpoint, NBC News reports.
“They detained Aaron for well over an hour at DFW. (And deliberately kept us from our flight… we are now on an alternate),” Williamson wrote in a now-viral Facebook post. “We were treated like dogs because I requested they attempt to screen him in other ways per TSA rules.”
In a statement, the TSA said they conducted the pat-down due to an alarm set off by a laptop computer.
“TSA allows for a pat-down of a teenage passenger, and in this case, all approved procedures were followed to resolve an alarm of the passenger’s laptop,” the statement reads.
However, Williamson claims no alarm was set off. She told NBC News that Aaron forgot to take his laptop out of his bag while they made their way through a busy TSA line. When that was discovered, the laptop was put back through and she said she heard a TSA agent deem it “cleared.” She said they still required Aaron be screened individually.
Williamson asked that Aaron be checked in a different way than the traditional pat-down because she says he has sensory processing disorder, which means sensory signals aren’t received and organized into an appropriate response, according to the STAR Institute. The institute likens SPD to a “neurological traffic jam.”
“I asked the agent if there’s some type of way that we could conduct [the screening] in a different manner than patting him down,” Williamson said. “I was then told that we could either be patted down or be escorted out by the DFW police.”
She said she was told there is no alternative policy to that pat-down.
In the video clip, Aaron’s collar, under arms, waistband, legs and inner thighs are all patted down and checked. Some parts of Aaron’s body, like his under arms and waistband are checked twice — once in the back, and once in the front.
Aaron appears calm and listens to the member of the TSA conducting the search.
“He is still several hours later saying ‘I don’t know what I did. What did I do?'” she wrote in the Facebook post. “I am livid.”
Williamson said she thought the search was excessive and asked for the TSA’s policy in writing, which she said was not provided to her.
“The video shows a male TSA officer explaining the procedure to the passenger, who fully cooperates,” the TSA statement says.
Earlier this month, the TSA eliminated a list of five methods used for pat-downs in exchange for one approach that is noticeably more “comprehensive,” according to a report from Bloomberg.
The searches at some airports include “more intimate contact” than prior checks due, in part, to a 2015 audit that said some weapons had not been detected at TSA checkpoints, the report added.
The TSA said in its statement that Aaron’s pat-down took approximately two minutes, but Williamson and her son were at the checkpoint for 35 minutes so the screening methods could be explained.
Three carry-on items had to be inspected in addition to the pat-down, according to the statement.
Williamson said there were two police officers flanking her son during the TSA check. She said she and Aaron have talked several times about the incident, which made both of them uncomfortable.
“Well I was thinking then that whenever this officer was touching me in certain areas,” Aaron told NBC News. “I was taught that no one should touch you in that area and whenever someone is touching you like that, you would think, ‘oh, who is this person and why are they doing this?'”
— DFW Airport (@DFWAirport) March 27, 2017
Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport directed all questions to the TSA, but responded to a tweet from a user who asked if Aaron was a threat.
“@CarlaMarionNews @TSA We understand your concerns and we have notified @AskTSA,” the tweet said. It also included a form to make a formal complaint.