A little advice for Nicole White, the TSA and anyone traveling with kids

screenedTurns out Nicole White’s account of her son being taken by a Transportation Security Administration officer did not line up with reality. Now the truth squad is coming after White, her site has been taken down and the young mother appears to have gone into hiding.

I have a little advice for White. And for the TSA. And for anyone reading this who is worried they might be separated from their child at the airport.

But before I continue, a disclaimer: My sympathies are with this young lady. Some of you have openly asked why I’m not as “hard” on her as I would be on a travel company that screws up. That’s easy to answer. I’m an advocate for the consumer, not the corporation.

But I’ve also been in White’s shoes in the past, having published facts that I believed to be true, but weren’t. I know what it feels like. If White took her site down, I can’t blame her. If she’s hiding in the military housing complex she lives in with her husband and son, and doesn’t feel like talking with anyone about this, I totally understand.

First, though, I wanted to address anyone traveling with kids, and afraid a TSA agent might try to take their offspring …

✓ Stop worrying. TSA officers are not interesting in swiping your kiddies.

✓ If you’re in a city with child-friendly TSA checkpoints, like Orlando, use ’em. The officers have a lot of experience dealing with families with children. They’ll make sure everything goes smoothly.

✓ Relax. The most high-profile accounts of TSA abusing families with children (here’s another one) have ended up being overblown.

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As for White …

✓ Bring your site back up as soon as possible. Then tell us what happened. What really happened. Was that you in the video? Are we missing something? What did the TSA officer say to you when you were being given a secondary screening? Why was the TSA’s version of events so dramatically different from yours?

✓ Please return the TSA’s call. They’re trying to get in touch with you, according to several accounts. You should talk.

✓ Drop the F-bombs. The gratuitous profanity in your blog isn’t helping your credibility.

✓ Move on. This isn’t the end of the world. So your story doesn’t match the events in the video. Tell us why, and then get on with your life. You’re a gifted writer and blogger. This is nothing more than a bump in the road.

And to my friends at the TSA …

✓ White’s case could have been handled better. You had her waiting in that plastic cage for a good long while. With her toddler. Seriously, I think we can all understand why she might be a little agitated.

✓ What took you so long to respond to her blog post? I knew that you had the video at 6:30 p.m. last night, but you didn’t publish it until 11 p.m. You can’t wait half a day to react to a viral story like this.

✓ Why did you blur the section of video where White was being given a secondary screening? It looks as if you’re trying to hide something.

At the risk of repeating myself, TSA appeared to handle White’s screening by the book. I see no evidence in its video that it was abusive or in any way out of line.

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I’m disappointed but at the same time relieved that White’s account was so dramatically different from what’s seen on the TSA video. I think — I hope — this can be a teaching moment. For all of us.

(Photo: william couch/Flickr Creative Commons)

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or check out his adventures on his family adventure travel site. Contact him at chris@elliott.org. Read more of Christopher's articles here.

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