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Denver Creates Kid-Friendly Air Screening

February 25, 2003

DENVER (AP) _ Sporting a smiley-face sticker, 3-year-old JoAnna Sandland walked toward the airport metal detector as a security screener waved a Goofy puppet to coax her along.

``Don’t be scared,″ Teresa Johnson said. ``Come give Goofy a high-five.″

The props were part of a new program at Denver International Airport to make airport screening less scary for kids. Transportation Security Administration officials were on hand Tuesday to see whether the idea could work nationwide.

Since October, the Denver airport has dedicated a single security lane to families with children under 12 so they can go through together.

A fuzzy yellow duck sits atop a metal post outside a metal detector. Children receive smiley-face stickers before they start toward the detector. For younger children, screeners use puppets to encourage them.

``With all of these daunting security measures we’ve implemented, it can be a little disconcerting to a child,″ said Bill Pickle, TSA director in Denver.

The program, the only one of its kind in the nation, was launched after screeners noticed the security process sometimes caused children to cry, said screener Celeste Sanchez.

``They don’t want to give up their blankie to be screened, so we exchange the blankie for a sticker. They forget about it and they get happy again,″ Sanchez said.

When JoAnna walked through, she triggered an alarm by rubbing her hand against the side of the detector. She went with her mother, brother and sister to a second checkpoint, where Sanchez removed JoAnna’s shoes and asked her to stand on a blue mat decorated with kittens.

The girl looked amused as Sanchez waved a metal detector disguised as a caterpillar wand across her arms and legs.

JoAnna’s mother, Jennifer Sandland, said the program seems to work.

``Usually they’re scared and they scream,″ she said. ``But they’re very calm.″

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On the Net:

http://www.flydenver.com

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