Clackamas mother outraged over TSA screening at PDX

A Clackamas was outraged over a full pat-down search of her 8-year-old son at Portland International Airport.

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by Mike Benner, KGW Staff

kgw.com

Posted on April 14, 2011 at 6:37 AM

Updated Thursday, Apr 14 at 1:14 PM

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Do you agree with TSA pat-downs for small children?

CLACKAMAS, Ore -- When the Sheahan family planned their trip to Disneyland they never could have imagined how it would begin.

"We're all going through security," recalled Heather Sheahan.  "Everything's fine."

Everything was fine until it was Heather's son's turn to go through the security checkpoint at Portland International Airport.

"It didn't buzz like a normal buzz," said Heather.  "It beeped like a beep you normally don't hear."

Just like that, little 8-year-old Spencer found himself in the company of a TSA agent.  Heather snapped photos to show Spencer going through a full pat-down.

"They went up his leg, into that area, down the next leg, up here (chest), felt all over," she explained.

Heather thought it crossed the line.  Spencer did, too.

"I was confused," he said.  "I did not know what they were going to do to me."

That could explain what a little girl in New Orleans was thinking just last week.  At just 6-years-old she also got a full pat-down.  Her mother called it "groping," and the home video she shot caused a national controversy.

VIDEO: 6-year-old girl pat-down in New Orleans

Security officials, however, said the government will never exempt an entire category of passengers from pat-downs.  They said it would invite terrorists to exploit those exceptions. 

A statement sent to KGW from Tina Burke with the Department of Homeland Security read, in part, "TSA has reviewed the [Portland] incident and determined that this officer followed proper current screening procedures. ...TSA has been actively reviewing its screening policies and procedures to streamline and improve the screening experience for low-risk populations, such as younger passengers."

More: Read TSA statement on Portland incident

It was an explanation Heather Sheahan said she cannot accept.

"I'm all for any adult doing it," said Heather.  "But for a child ... I don't think it's right."

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