A furious mom has filed a lawsuit against the US Transportation Security Administration and an agency supervisor for a strip search incident involving her transgender daughter.
In May 2019, Kimberly Erway and her 15-year-old daughter, Jamii Erway, from NorthCarolina, were flying out of Raleigh-Durham International Airport when Jamii went through the TSA body scanner, it indicated a “false positive”.
She says her transgender daughter’s constitutional rights were violated when a TSA screener told her she would have to submit to a strip search after a “false positive” alert indicated that the scanner detected an anomaly on her groin.
Kimberly claims that the TSA “advised Jamii that she was not free to leave until she submitted to such a search, in violation of TSA policy, the Fourth Amendment, and state law rights of Jamii, and the boundaries of civil and decent society.”
According to the lawsuit, Jamii told the scanner that she was transgender. However, instead of giving her a second scan with this information, the person called their supervisor for extra help.
She was reportedly not given the options that the TSA states directly on its website instead, she felt violated. Jamii was 15 in 2019 when she passed through security with a valid boarding pass.
TSA’s transgender passenger webpage states that upon entering the scanner, “the TSA officer presses a button designating a gender (male/female) based on how you present yourself.”
It also notes, “the machine has software that looks at the anatomy of men and women differently. The equipment conducts a scan and indicates areas on the body warranting further inspection if necessary.”
The supervisor, who has remained anonymous in the lawsuit, reportedly said that “she would need to accompany her to a private room, expose herself, and allow (the supervisor) to “feel up in there,” touch her genitals.”
After Kimberly also refused to force her daughter to submit to the inspection, the TSA agent called over a police officer.
According to the lawsuit, a police officer was called over after Jamii didn’t comply, which triggered her “panic, anxiety, fear, racing heart, shortness of breath.”
The police officer said he would not detain Jamii and they left the airport, rented a car, and drove more than 600 miles to return home in Rochester, New York, their home at the time.
The lawsuit says, “Jamii continues to experience symptoms of severe emotional distress, including symptoms of panic, anxiety, fear, racing heart, shortness of breath, uncontrollable shaking, and nausea.”
The Erway’s are seeking a jury trial, unspecified damages, and an injunction preventing a similar scenario from happening in the future. The mother is also suing an agency supervisor, identified as “Jane Doe.”
Jamii isn’t the only person who has suffered this type of abuse before. Several individuals who identify as trans shared their own personal stories of having to out themselves, often to no avail.
Jonathan Corbett, Erway’s lawyer said: “TSA policy at the time of the incident did not allow a screener to demand anyone — let alone a child — expose their genitals as part of a search.”
He continued: “This failure of training and supervision is all too common with the TSA, and we look forward to holding them accountable.”
The lawsuit says that, while TSA has authorized a policy forbidding strip searches by checkpoint screeners, it has failed to appropriately train and supervise its employees on the policies.
The lawsuit, therefore, asks for an order from the court that would require TSA “to take the actions necessary to enforce its policies.” It also asks for emotional damages.
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