ST. LOUIS, Mo. — The Transportation Security Administration is apologizing to a Missouri family after agents at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport detained a 4-year-old child confined to a wheelchair, took away her stuffed animal, and refused to allow her parents to film agents performing a body search.
“TSA regrets inaccurate guidance was provided to this family during screening and offers its apology,” a TSA spokesman told Fox News in response to a story about the Forck family’s ordeal.
The incident happened on Feb. 9 at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport.
Nathan Forck and his wife Annie, along with their three children were heading to Disney World for a family vacation. Lucy, their three-year-old, has Spina bifida and is confined to a wheelchair.
The family managed to make it through the TSA checkpoint without any problems. But as they prepared to walk to their gate, a TSA agent pulled aside Lucy for additional screening measures.
“They specifically told me that they were singling her out for this special treatment because she’s in a wheelchair,” he told Fox News. “They are specifically singling out disabled people for this special scrutiny. It’s rather offensive to me as a father of a disabled child.”
The agent said they needed to pat down Lucy and swab her wheelchair – even though both had already gone through the checkpoint.
“They treated her like a criminal,” said Forck. “And by extension they were treating us as criminals.”
Forck’s wife started filming the entire episode – over the objections of the TSA agent.
“You can’t do touch my daughter unless I record it,” she can be heard telling the agent.
The agent replied by telling the parents “It is illegal to do that.”
“The problem is, I don’t allow anyone to touch my little daughter,” Annie Forck said.
As TSA agents discussed what they were going to do, the video shows Lucy weeping uncontrollably.
“I don’t want to go Disney World,” she screamed as her parents tried to offer reassurances.
After 30 minutes, the Forck family was rescreened with the pat-down and they were allowed to continue on their trip.
The TSA told Fox News that the actions of their agents in St. Louis was inappropriate. Passengers are permitted to film TSA procedures at the checkpoint as long as it doesn’t interfere with the screening process.
And while the child ultimately did not receive a pat-down, the TSA said the family should never have been told it was going to occur.
“We are committed to maintaining the security of the traveling public and strive to treat all passengers with dignity and respect,” the TSA spokesperson told Fox News. “While no pat-down was performed, we will address specific concerns with our workforce.”
Forck said he understands that a certain level of security is needed at airports – but he believes what happened in St. Louis was not only inappropriate but may have been illegal.
“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.”