Mom says TSA made special needs daughter choose between health and pat down

TSA says screening protocols were followed
Posted at 10:05 PM, Jun 22, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-23 10:57:07-04

DENVER -- A Colorado mom says TSA needs to change its screening protocol for special needs children.

Stephanie Griggs says her 13-year old daughter, Bella has been diagnosed with Fanconi anemia, a chromosome breakage disorder that can lead to bone marrow problems and early cancer.

"Doctors have told her to avoid any unnecessary radiation," Griggs said.

On Tuesday, the Griggs family began a cross-country journey to Maine, to attend Camp Sunshine, a retreat for kids with life-threatening diseases, and their families.

As they were going through security at Denver International Airport, Bella had to face something she’d never experienced before.

“I always let TSA know that we’re traveling with medical liquids,” Griggs said. “I also request that Bella be allowed to go through metal detectors, as opposed to a full-body scanner. I reiterated that [the scanner] could be detrimental to her health.”

Griggs said the agent told her that if the daughter opted out of the full-body scan, she would be patted down.

Griggs told Denver7 that she and her husband have always taught their kids that no one should touch them on private parts of their body, except a physician.

She asked to talk to a supervisor and said she was told that her daughter had three choices. She could go through the metal detector and be patted down, go through the full body scan or leave the airport and not go to camp.

“I was understandably upset,” she said. “Bella was very, very upset.”

Griggs said they’ve traveled through DIA and other airports multiple times and never ran into this issue.

“It’s unfair,” she said. “Bella’s got enough crap in her life to deal with; she doesn’t need this.”

To avoid the pat down from a stranger, Bella opted to go through the full-body scan.

“It just kind of felt scary to me,” Bella said. “So, I just decided to go through the full-body scanner.”

During the scan, there was an alert, so Bella ended up being patted down anyway.

“Every other time she has flown, she’s been deemed safe,” Griggs said. “Nothing has changed.”

Griggs said nothing was found during the pat-down, which makes her wonder if the machines weren’t calibrated appropriately.

She said she also wonders if the security officer was on a power trip.

A TSA spokeswoman provided Denver7 the following statement:

We regret that the passenger and her family found their screening experience stressful. After an internal review, we determined that screening protocols were followed. TSA’s screening procedures have been developed to ensure that passengers can be screened regardless of their disability or medical condition. In this case, the passenger elected to go through Advanced Imaging Technology when presented with her options, and required further screening to clear an alarm.

Last March, TSA issued this statement about pat-downs, which applies to passengers 13 and over:

Effective March 2, 2017, TSA consolidated previous pat-down procedures into one standardized pat-down procedure at airport security checkpoints and at other locations within the airport. This standardized pat-down procedure continues to utilize enhanced security measures implemented several months ago, and does not involve any different areas of the body than were screened in the previous standard pat-down procedure. Individuals transiting the TSA security checkpoint who have opted out of technology screening, or have alarmed certain technology or a canine team, will undergo a pat-down. Passengers may also receive a pat-down as part of our unpredictable security measures. TSA continues to adjust and refine our systems and procedures to meet the evolving threat and to achieve the highest levels of transportation security.