Four-year-old Isabella Brademeyer had just learned about "stranger danger" at school, her family said.
Perhaps that's why the little girl was terrified when Transportation Security Administration officers at a Kansas airport separated her from her mother, told her to spread her arms and legs and insisted on patting down the crying, pleading child, who was shouting "No!" and trying to run back to her family.
Isabella's mother, Michelle Brademeyer, wrote of the incident on her Facebook page: "I was forced to set my child down. … My child was shaking and crying uncontrollably, she did not want to stand still and let strangers touch her. The TSO loomed over my daughter, with an angry grimace on her face, and ordered her to stop crying. When my scared child could not do so, two TSOs called for backup, saying, 'The suspect is not cooperating.'"
Isabella's terrifying ordeal on April 15, 2012, was just one of many similar instances reported by parents, even caught on video, last year when Americans were outraged over the TSA's intensified security screenings at airports and other transportation hubs.
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At the time, the TSA was unapologetic, announcing it had reviewed the Brademeyer incident and "determined that our officers followed proper screening procedures in conducting a modified pat-down on the child."
But on Dec. 18 of this year, the TSA announced it was taking new steps to "make traveling more enjoyable for the entire family": namely, with dog pictures, coloring pages and a new cartoon to explain why the TSA "isn't scary."
The new TSA Kids website contains a page for parents – with information and tips on traveling with children – and a page for kids, complete with K9 profiles, coloring pages and activities.
The homepage features video of an animated dog family about to pass through a security checkpoint, when Junior proclaims, "Oh! It looks kinda scary. I don't think [my sister] Molly will like it."
"Nah, it's not scary," his father answers. "TSA officers are here to keep us secure."
The video then walks the dog family through standard, electronic scanning procedures before the family leaves with smiles and Mother proclaims, "Thank you, TSA!"
Watch the video itself below:
The TSA explains the new website for kids "offers children and parents of young travelers important security information in a fun and engaging way and encourages children to learn more about TSA procedures prior to traveling. The website features travel security activities as well as security related videos and information to teach children and their parents about the security process. This website will not only keep young travelers informed, it will make traveling more enjoyable for the entire family."
Conspicuously missing from the TSA cartoon, however, is any depiction or explanation of the hands-on, pat-down procedure that so terrified Isabella Brademeyer.
Neither does the cartoon depict what should happen should a child set off the metal detector's alarm, though the parents page does explain of children, "If they alarm, TSA has procedures in place that have reduced, but will not eliminate, the need for pat-downs to resolve the alarm."
The site also warns that the TSA uses advanced imaging technology, or AIT, and, "Eligible passengers who opt out of AIT screening will receive alternative screening, to include a thorough pat-down."
The website further informs parents of children with injury or disability utilizing a wheelchair or similar device, "If your child is unable to walk or stand, the Security Officer will conduct a pat-down search of your child while he/she remains in their mobility aid."
Video of a child calmly enduring the pat-down can be seen below:
The pat-down technique, however, has faced stiff scrutiny – in part, because of publicized incidents, like the Brademeyers', in which the children were frightened by the procedure: