Woman Humiliated and Forced to Remove Nipple Rings
By Gerri Elder
Mandi Hamlin, 37, says that she has endured a nightmare that she would not wish on anyone. The Texas woman says that Transportation Security Administration officials refused to let her board a flight unless she removed her nipple rings and that they supplied her with pliers to get the job done.
On February 24, 2008, Hamlin was scheduled to fly from Lubbock to Dallas. After passing through a large metal detector at the airport, she was scanned by a TSA agent and that's where the problem started.
According to a report by CBS News, the female TSA agent passed the handheld metal detector in front of Hamlin's chest and it beeped. Hamlin says that she advised the agent that she had pierced nipples and was wearing nipple rings. The female agent then called some of her male co-workers over and advised them of the situation and Hamlin says that one of the male TSA agents told her that she would have to remove her nipple rings.
Hamlin told the TSA agents that she could not remove the rings and asked that she be able to show them to the female agent privately in order to clear up the confusion about why the metal detector beeped. The TSA agents denied her request and told her again that she could either remove her nipple rings or miss her flight, but that she would not be allowed to board the plane unless they were removed.
Visibly upset, Hamlin stepped behind a curtain and attempted to remove her body jewelry. She managed to remove the bar from one nipple but could not remove the ring from the other. She began to cry and told the TSA agent that she could not remove the other one without pliers. The agent then got a pair of pliers for her.
High profile attorney Gloria Allred now represents Hamlin and has written a letter to the TSA's Office of Civil Rights and Liberties. Hamlin wants an apology from TSA and if she does not receive one she may file a personal injury lawsuit. She also wants the agency's civil rights office to conduct an investigation.
Hamlin says she was humiliated by TSA officials and even heard male TSA agents laughing at her while she was using the pliers to remove the jewelry. The skin had healed around the nipple rings and adhered to the metal. This made it extremely difficult and painful for Hamlin to remove them. After the nipple rings were removed, Hamlin was scanned again and allowed to board the flight although she was still wearing a belly button ring.
TSA officials are investigating the incident to determine if the agents followed the correct procedures. The TSA web site warns passengers with body piercings that they could be subjected to additional screening, asked to remove body jewelry in private or subjected to a pat down search by TSA officials.
Hamlin says that she would have gladly consented to a pat down search, but she was not given that option. She filed a complaint but the TSA customer service manager at the Lubbock airport determined that the TSA agents handled the screening properly.
After hearing from Gloria Allred, the TSA has officially changed their screening process regarding nipple rings. On March 29 they acknowledged on their web site that having Hamlin remove her nipple rings caused difficulty for her and that procedures are changing to ensure that this type of situation does not happen again.
It's not an apology or an investigation, but it is a step in the right direction. Perhaps Hamlin won't need to file a personal injury lawsuit after all, but only time will tell.