A Missouri couple is furious after the Transportation Security Administration detained their wheelchair-bound three-year-old daughter, took away her stuffed doll, and refused to allow them to videotape agents patting her down.
“They treated her like a criminal,” said Nathan Forck. “And by extension they were treating us as criminals.”
The TSA did not return phone calls or emails seeking comment.
The incident happened on Feb. 9th at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport.
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.
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.
The Forcks refused to stop filming and soon, the young family was surrounded by TSA agents – one specifically assigned to guard Lucy.
“It’s your worst nightmare,” Forck said. “It’s bad enough they are demanding they want to pat down my child and didn’t want me to videotape it.”
Forck, who is an attorney, said he knew enough about the law to know it was perfectly legal to videotape.
“That set off alarm bells,” he said.
At some point the agents confiscated Lucy’s stuffed toy, “Lamby” – reducing the child to tears.
“She was crying for her stuffed animal which they wouldn’t let her have for the longest time,” he said. “It’s only about a half foot long. It’s a lamb down that talks – but she loves it.”
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.
Forck said he could not understand why the TSA was so adamant about not allowing them to film their daughter’s pat-down.
“Just because you slap a TSA badge on – I don’t know this person – and they’re going to be putting their hands on my child,” he said.
He said if someone had done that outside the airport – they would be in jail.
“But you put a TSA badge on and now all of a sudden it’s okay,” he said.
Forck said they were not trying to make a scene at the airport. They only wanted to maintain the dignity of their daughter.
“We were going to stand our ground and state very clearly what they could and could not do to our child,” he said. “It was very disheartening. It broke my heart that Lucy had to go through that on the way to of all places Disney World.”
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.”
After 30 minutes, the Forck family was rescreened and allowed to continue on their trip. He said they had absolutely no problems getting through the TSA checkpoint in Orlando.
And Lucy was also reunited with Lamby.