Travel News

Modified Pat-Down Policy for Children Under 12 and Additional Policy Changes to Come

Locations in this article:  New Orleans, LA

At a Senate hearing on Tuesday, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, announced the government will implement a modified airport pat-down procedure for children under 12.

Children will now be allowed to keep their shoes on when passing through security. In addition, children will receive fewer pat-downs. Transportation Security Administration(TSA) agents are instructed to first rely on metal detectors when screening children, but children will still be subject to modified pat downs.

The screening policy changes come after a year of complaints from passengers and privacy advocates. The TSA started “enhanced” pat downs on passengers in October 2010. The pat-downs involve TSA screeners touching intimate areas, a practice that many parents argue is unnecessarily intrusive for young children.

As recently as this spring, the TSA was making headline with their pat downs for young children. On April 16, 2011 a 6 year-old girl received a pat-down at New Orleans’ Louis Armstrong International Airport. The parents released video of the pat-down on YouTube resulting in national outrage. The ACLU release a statement condemning the TSA’s actions, but national security experts argued that taking kids out of the mix creates a hole in our security.

The TSA continues to search for a balance between national security and personal privacy.  In addition to the relaxed policy towards the screening of children under 12, Napolitano commented that government is taking steps to minimize invasive security procedures for all travelers.

“We are moving towards an intelligence and risk-based approach to how we screen,” Napolitano said at the Senate hearing, “I think one of the first things you will see over time is the ability to keep your shoes on. One of the last things you will [see] is the reduction or limitation on liquids.”

The TSA has yet to adopt risk-based security policies, but Napolitano said travelers will start to see the changes to child screening in the coming months.

By: Corinne DeWitt for

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