Tracking a toddler’s airport pat-down

I spent much of Monday morning trying to track down the parent who posted the video (below) of a 3 year-old in a wheelchair getting a very thorough pat-down at an airport security checkpoint.

It turned out the video was shot in 2010 and had been posted on YouTube over the weekend. But that didn’t stop it from going viral.

Here’s my story about the video – and the TSA’s response – that posted on

A video shot in 2010 showing a 3-year-old boy receiving a pat-down from a TSA agent went viral today. The toddler was wearing a cast and sitting in a wheelchair.

In an annotated videotape of the incident posted March 17 on YouTube, the father is heard reassuring his son, whom he calls “Rocco,” while a TSA officer is seen patting down the squirming boy and taking swabs of the chair and the cast. After asking the parents to lift the boy’s shirt and offering them the option of going to a private screening area, the officer is also shown swabbing the boy’s back.

The video has been viewed more than 400,000 times. [updated]

Before conducting the check at the Chicago Midway Airport, the TSA officer tries to reassure the boy by asking what he likes — “Tigers? Animals?” — and then asks the boy to sit up. During the inspection he also tells the parents what he is doing and tells Rocco that he’s a good boy.

Comments added to the video by his father, said, “I was told I could NOT touch him or come near him during this process. Instead we had to pretend this was ‘OK’ so he didn’t panic.”

Reached Monday morning,  the boy’s father, Matt DuBiel, said the video was made in spring 2010 during a family trip to Disney World.

“We had a baby five weeks ago, and I was looking at some old family videos on Saturday night, and I got incensed and emotional watching it.”

DuBiel says he posted it on YouTube to share it with family members who have heard him talk about the incident but who hadn’t seen the video.

Noting that the incident took place more than a year ago, TSA, in a statement, said: “Due to the fact that this passenger was traveling in a wheelchair and had a cast he would have been unable to pass through the walk-through metal detector or imaging technology and therefore received alternative screening, a pat-down and use of explosives trace detection.”

“It doesn’t matter when it was,” said DuBiel. “That’s the TSA and that is my son. And he is wearing a body cast. The TSA agent did the best he could with a ridiculous situation, but someone should have stepped in and said, ‘That’s enough.’ ” He said he didn’t make a fuss at the time because he was worried about getting the whole family through security. The family was traveling to Disney World.

“At the time, they didn’t  have the rules in place for children that they have now. But, regardless of the new or old rules, my position is that it’s unacceptable to treat a toddler this way.”

Last fall, the TSA revised its rules for children 12 and under, saying they no longer have to remove their shoes at security checkpoints. The agency’s policy for Children with Disabilities states that “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, as well as a visual and physical inspection of their equipment.”

“While recognizing that terrorists are willing to manipulate societal norms to evade detection, our officers continue to work with parents to ensure a respectful screening process for the entire family at the checkpoint,” TSA said Monday.


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2 thoughts on “Tracking a toddler’s airport pat-down

  1. KimberlyRose says:

    I don’t see that the TSO did anything inappropriate, and he tried to make it as easy on the kid as he could. Like it or not, kids do have to clear security. Heck, when my son was 18 months old we had to go into the plastic booth so he could get wanded after he set off the metal detector.

    Note to Rocco’s dad: your son is a cute kid, but he is not special, nor are you. Neither of you are exempt from security screening. Grow up and get over yourself.

  2. My viewpoint about this matter may be controversial, but like it or not, this is a normal part of our society now days and teaching out children that security screening is a big scary deal by reacting like this is IMHO not the right thing to do. Unfortunately, they need to learn that this is a normal process that is just a part of flying.

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