What to do if the TSA takes your child

By | October 16th, 2009

tsa checkpointNicole White describes herself as a 28-year-old freelancing writer, “tattooed liberal” and mom to a 16-month-old son, Jackson. She lives in Annapolis, Md., with her husband, Paul, a Navy pilot.

While White and her son were passing through the security checkpoint in Atlanta yesterday, she claims a TSA agent walked away with her toddler.

My eyes welled up with tears, I stood up from my chair and I asked the female TSA agent, “Where is he going? Where is he taking my child? Why is he leaving?”

Jackson, while being whisked away looked at the male TSA agent awkwardly and repeated “no no no no.”

I started crying.

Sounds pretty harsh, doesn’t it? After all, TSA promises it won’t separate parents from their children.

We specially train our Security Officers and they understand your concern for your children. They will approach your children gently and treat them with respect. If your child becomes uncomfortable or upset, security officers will consult you about the best way to relieve your child’s concern.

So what went wrong here?

Nothing, according to the TSA. Late Friday, the agency released the complete video footage of her screening, which shows she and her son were never separated and calls into question other parts of her account. It also sent me the following statement:


On Oct. 15 at approximately 11 a.m. at Atlanta Hartsfield International Airport, a female passenger and her small child processed through the security checkpoint. Following her trip, the passenger blogged an online narration describing her airport security experience and alleged that TSA separated her child from her during screening.

TSA’s policy is that officers will not ask parents to do anything that would distance them from their children during the screening process. Our goal is to provide the highest level of security while ensuring that all passengers are treated with courtesy and respect.

After reviewing the footage it is evident that all proper screening procedures were followed and at no time did any TSA officer remove her child from her custody, as was described in the blog post.

I have also reached out to White to get some details from her. She hasn’t responded. Curiously, she’s removed all the comments from her blog post as well.

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It appears that White and her son were pulled over for secondary screening. The process took a little while longer than they expected. From her post:

At this point in time, my heart began to race, thinking we would miss our flight and I would be stuck in the Atlanta airport with Jackson for who knows how long until there was another flight to Baltimore.

The female TSA agent stood in front of me while I sat with Jackson and she continued to watch luggage come through the conveyor belt.

“Ma’am, can someone please just search me so we can be on our way? We are going to miss our flight,” I said.

The female agent then called an older gentleman, also a TSA agent over. The male TSA agent stood in front of me and said “I’m going to have to pat down your son.”

The reaction from the Twittersphere, where I first reported this issue, has been swift and merciless. Although one follower called White “high-strung” most of the criticism was leveled against the agency:

Some people need to be fired!