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Boy Forced to Remove Leg Braces by TSA

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OK. Now this is crossing the line.

TSA checkpoint

The 4-year-old son of a New Jersey police officer was told he could not pass through security at the airport unless he removed his metal leg braces. The family was on their way to Walt Disney World in Orlando to celebrate the boy's fourth birthday. His dad, Bob Thomas, says son Ryan is developmentally delayed and wears the braces because his ankles are malformed and his legs have low muscle tone -- effects of his premature birth sixteen weeks early. Ryan was just starting to walk when this happened.

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer's Daniel Rubin, the Thomas family arrived several hours before their flight. Mr. Thomas pushed Ryan's stroller to the TSA checkpointand put it on the conveyor belt. Thomas' wife, Leona, walked Ryan through the metal detector, setting off the alarm. Thomas then says the TSA worker told them to take off Ryan's plastic-and-metal braces. "I told them he can't walk without them on his own," Thomas said. "[The TSA agent] said, 'He'll need to take them off.' "

Leona asked if she could walk her son through the detector after the braces were removed. That request was denied. She was told the boy had to walk on his own.

The family followed instructions, and Ryan made it through the detector. But his parents were furious. Bob demanded to speak with a supervisor, telling the official, "This is overkill. He's 4 years old. I don't think he's a terrorist.' " The supervisor replied, "You know why we're doing this." A cop himself, Thomas complained to the airport manager -- and then went to the press. "This was just stupid," he said.

Now the TSA has apologized to the Thomas family. A TSA spokesperson said the little boy should not have had to remove his braces, and acknowledged that there are other ways to screen those with disabilities. TSA policy allows for those with special needs -- such as braces -- to be taken to a private area and be screened there.

Yes, the TSA is supposed to keep us -- and the skies -- safe, but this is ridiculous. Do you have any TSA horror stories?

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49 comments so far | Post a comment now
Carolyn February 17, 2010, 10:36 AM

Totally outrageous. They wouldn’t make a grown man get out of a wheelchair if he couldn’t walk. Some people are just plain stupid. I’m all for security, but have some common sense people!

Rita February 17, 2010, 10:42 AM

God that’s horrible. How heartless could a person be? I know I would find some way of screening around the disability. The guy just wanted to be a jerk. I hope he gets fired.

Jen February 17, 2010, 11:21 AM

I understand having the boy take them off but to make him walk through the metal detector without any assistance is absurd. TSA wonders why they have a bad name? (sarcasm)

Karinne February 17, 2010, 11:23 AM

Sue them! I would totally sue them and get that jerk fired! There is absolutely a line they crossed. Snap back and make sure it stings so they think long and hard before trying some BS move like this again!

Lindsay February 17, 2010, 11:34 AM

How about they start doing background checks on the people that purchase airline tickets, and make a rule that people with ANY affiliation to terrorists are not allowed to fly. 4-yr olds with disabilities are clearly NOT the risk! How stupid can they be-sheesh! TSA is too worried about offending healthy able-bodied adults, and insulting families with already enough difficulty in their lives!

Henry February 17, 2010, 11:38 AM

This is absolutely reasonable. The TSA is on a limited budget, and can’t afford to give everyone preferential treatment. And do you really think a terrorist would be above hiding bombs in his child’s leg braces? I think not.

Kegan February 17, 2010, 11:42 AM

yes its a little ridiculous but if they start telling the agents who can get away with what we’d have a crisis. and by the way - whats with all of this “sue them” mentality. Make a point so it changes others experiences but for christs sake you dont need money to get your point across.

Kirstie February 17, 2010, 12:17 PM

Henry - the point is that they CAN afford it; despite being on a limited budget there are already protocols established which provide for alternate screening in cases just like this. The policies which are ALREADY IN PLACE were simply ignored in this situation by an individual TSA agent. Higher-ups in the TSA have acknowledged that this was done in error and that the situation was significantly mishandled.

Anonymous Mom February 17, 2010, 12:35 PM

I think Henry is being facecious (probably spelled wrong). And I think we can all agree that this was beyond absurd, and we’d all be past furious if that was our child. I read elsewhere that if the father hadn’t been a law officer himself, they probably would’ve detained him and made him miss his flight. Don’t forget, you’re not allowed to be angry anymore either.

Kiwi February 17, 2010, 4:32 PM

This is not the first non sense I read about airport security and childrens. That’s totaly skyzophrenic to deny human comppassion and comon sense to obey fears. What to do in front of a choking news ? “Damn, that’s awful” nothing much more. Only way out, look into the source of fear. Power of terorism is way too exegerated imho.

Jen February 17, 2010, 5:46 PM

Henry, I don’t think you read the entire article. The real point was that the little boy was forced to walk through the metal detectors without his braces and without assistance from his mother. Having someone remove braces to inspect them is one thing but forcing an individual to walk without their cane, braces or without any type of assistance from an individual when they are clearly disabled is just ridiculous.

just sayin' February 17, 2010, 6:28 PM

My MIL worked as a TSA screener— she says that the whole thing is just a farce anyway— of course, I wouldn’t have, but if I had been that mom I would have imagined wrapping those braces around the TSA agents neck….

mercaties February 18, 2010, 2:06 AM

I’m not usually one for suing but they should file a lawsuit for emotional distress, and failure to comply with procedures for disabled people. I personally would not have taken the braces off I would have held up the line waiting for the supervisor. This family needs to be all over the news with this and that agent should be fired!! TSA has crossed the line this time the president needs to step in and do something because this type of thing is becoming more and more common. How about if we just don’t let people from certain countries across our border, then it wont be a problem!

Cheryl February 18, 2010, 6:41 AM

This is totally outrageous. I have flown with my child who also wears leg braces, and not once did anyone ask us to make her walk, with or without them. She was “wanded” off to the side, while still in the stroller. The stroller itself was also checked, but it was not invasive or dehumanizing. TSA could have done better. Supposing the child could not have walked thru?

Ann Manka May 2, 2010, 9:26 AM

I can do one better. Disabled mom traveling with two disabled children. One eight year old, is paralyzed from the waist down and has spina bifida. He is in a wheelchair. Due to his many many surgeries he has developed severe separation anxiety disorder. He was taken after I said a firm “NO” and told the idiots he needed a family member with him. I ran through the detecter, set off alarms because I have hardware in my spine. I rushed to my son’s side. They had him bent over in his chair and were feeling up his back. He was crying and almost to the pt of vomiting he was so afraid. I ended up getting frisked. My twelve year old who is paralyzed from the knees down was asked to remove her leg braces and walk through. We refused, She can not walk without her braces and then short distance. It appears we have terrorist among us in the form of our TSA agents at airports. They are terrorizing families of and with disabled children.

ArlingtonVA-Mom August 4, 2010, 2:06 PM

Today - 8-4-10 we took my older daughter’s friend to DCA to fly back to Florida - her friend was flying alone and we asked for a gate pass for the family which was granted.

My youngest daughter is a trauma victim and severely developmentally delayed and travels in crowded places in a convaid wheelchair stroller AND her service dog. Normally before we go through the metal detectors I stripe her service dog’s collar and harness off and then put him in a down and call him through the detectors. Then my husband puts my whopping 49 ib on his back (Piggy back) and in this way she is not too traumatized by the event and is reunited with her dog within seconds of me goting through then her coming through to meet us.
Before we could figure out what was going to happen, a TSA agent took the wheelchair stroller from my husband and pushed it into a glass box - effectively separating my daughter from not only her service animal but also the entire family. She is a trauma victim and has had every kind of abuse a child could endure before we adopted her. She can not speak but does understand what is said to her. My daughter thought she was being taken away from us and was so terriorized by what happened she went into a fetal position in her chair. When I got to her I was not allowed to touch her and I told the agent again she was a trauma victim and would not allow her to touch her. She said she much allow her to wand her fingers and who knows what else. Mind you - we were not even boarding a plane — so I said I would take my daughter’s friend to the gate and my husband could just take her out - but they wouldn’t let us leave or touch her — this has regressed my daughter and we are going to be dealing with the ramifications of this encounter for weeks and weeks. I asked the agent for a CRO and she refused —- then finally a supervisor got to us — I have never seen this happen but the supervisor was moved to “Tears” when he saw what had happened to us — he was the only agent out of the 6-8 agents that were dealing with passengers at the gate that had a brain in his head and realized what these total idiots were doing — they had NO sensitivity or idea on how to handle a disabled passenger — let alone a child with severe disabilities. And again we weren’t even getting on the airplane - All but the supervisor were incompetent and as a result of this encounter we are not goint to be able to fly for some time to come until we can help my daughter heal from being re-traumatized by these “screeners”. Plus I believe their own regulations stipulate you never separate a service dog from their partner

Fred November 22, 2010, 12:34 PM

TSA employees obviously all have GED’s.

Fissler December 6, 2010, 4:56 AM

Can I make a suggestion? I think youve got something good here. But what if you added a couple links to a page that backs up what youre saying? Or maybe you could give us something to look at, something that would connect what youre saying to something tangible? Just a suggestion.

noclegi Nałęczów December 8, 2010, 4:46 AM

Your joking, right?

Wycieczki do Paryża December 9, 2010, 7:11 AM

Your joking, right?

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