FlyerTalk members were outraged to learn about the plight of Lucy Forck — a girl who is three years old and bound to a wheelchair due to suffering from a disorder known as spina bifida — who was detained with her parents at an airport security checkpoint at Lambert–Saint Louis International Airport on their trip to Walt Disney World in Orlando.
Fueling that outrage is the inaccurate dictum by agents of the Transportation Security Administration that recording the incident with a camera is prohibited.
Here is a video of the incident, recorded by Annie Schulte — the mother of Lucy — and posted on YouTube:
This is not the first time that a disabled three-year-old child bound to a wheelchair was detained by agents of the Transportation Security Administration, as evidenced here — as well as the controversy which surrounded the alleged “abuse” of a disabled girl ten years of age — but even though I expressed that I was appalled by the suppositions of those particular cases, the screenings were benign as compared to what Lucy Forck experienced.
This is also not the first time that there have been debates over whether or not the recording or filming of an airport security checkpoint is prohibited, as evidenced by a FlyerTalk member who was reportedly forced to delete footage recorded by him in New York; by Andrea Abbott, who was blocked by a law enforcement officer from recording her daughter receiving a “pat-down” in Nashville; and by Phillip Mocek — also known as FlyerTalk member pmocek — who recorded an exchange with Transportation Security Agents, airport personnel and law enforcement officers after not presenting his identification when requested.
Bob Burns — who is part of the team which writes for the official weblog for the Transportation Security Administration — erroneously called the agent involved in the incident an “officer” in his clarification of the screening of Lucy Forck. Transportation Security Administration agents are NOT officers, even though Burns himself admits that “only law enforcement officers can detain passengers.” However, at least Burns links to the correct official policies pertaining to filming at airport security checkpoints, as well as the screening of children who are 12 years of age and younger.
Officials representing the Transportation Security Administration have publicly apologized to the Forcks — but is that enough?
Some FlyerTalk members also question the parenting skills of the mother and father of Lucy. Did they have any responsibility in escalating this situation? Was the mother being overly protective of Lucy, or was she well within her rights of being adamant about recording the screening of her child? Should they have better prepared Lucy for what to expect when going through the airport security checkpoint — and if so, how?
Not that I blame Annie Schulte for attempting to calm down her daughter in every way possible, but I found it sickening to hear her call her daughter “special” — found in the video starting at the 4:04 marker — in an attempt to euphemistically justify a situation which never should have occurred in the first place where she was selected to receive a “pat-down” when many other fellow passengers simply retrieved their belongings and continued on to their flights.
Agents of the Transportation Security Administration need to be more consistent with following the posted procedures and policies regarding the screening of passengers at airport security checkpoints throughout the United States — but the blame is not entirely on them. The policies of airports as dictated by governmental authorities and those agencies which operate the airports also need to be more closely aligned to offer a more consistent experience without sacrificing the security of people who use — as well as work at — these airports.
Furthermore, there needs to be a way to screen passengers who are teenagers or younger where the potential for a traumatic experience is significantly mitigated — or, preferably, completely eliminated altogether. I get the argument that a terrorist could use a disabled child as a mole for a “weapon of mass destruction” — I know I would never have thought about sacrificing my own life on September 11, 2001 to hijack an aircraft and fly it into buildings of significance, let alone use an innocent disabled child to commit a nefarious act — but are there not ways to be prepared for that unlikely scenario without traumatizing children who are traveling by airplane to visit popular theme parks or family members?
The experience of travel should not be traumatic to a child — or, frankly, to anyone, for that matter. Travel is supposed to be a memorable experience to be savored — a voluntary activity which people want to do and not be apprehensive or reticent about it. For the business traveler, it is a method of which to maintain and increase business, contributing positively to the overall economy. Travel should be encouraged. There are those people who are already stressed by other components of travel without having to be concerned about a potentially traumatizing situation, to which airport security checkpoints seem to significantly contribute. Why not show a disaster movie involving an airplane on the in-flight entertainment system aboard the aircraft, just for good measure in further traumatizing passengers? What was the point of removing the word turbulence from the lexicon of flight safety announcements and replacing it with the term rough air when the passenger may already be stressed from the experience of being screened at an airport security checkpoint?
Have the lessons of previous gaffes committed by agents of the Transportation Security Administration still have not been learned? Whatever happened to simple common sense?!?
What are your thoughts? How could this situation have been avoided in the first place?