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TSA reaches agreement on pat-down searches of black women's hair

TSA reaches agreement on pat-down searches of black women's hair
Hair stylist Keeshone Cook puts the finishing touches on Letta Semenya's braids at the Nubian Creations Salon in Pasadena. The TSA says it does not target the hair of black women for pat down searches. (Axel Koester / for the Times)

The American Civil Liberties Union said it has reached an agreement with the Transportation Security Administration to ensure that black women are not singled out for pat-down searches of their hair.

The agreement came in response to a complaint by neuroscientist Malaika Singleton, a black woman who says TSA agents squeezed her “Sisterlocks” styled hair at Los Angeles International Airport and again at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport as she began a 2013 trip to London to attend a G8 Summit.

In an email to the ACLU, a TSA attorney said the agency will retrain security officers at LAX and Minneapolis to stress "race neutrality" and will track TSA complaints by black women to see if excessive hair searches are problems at other airports.

"I hope that this agreement and the proposed trainings will lead to more equitable treatment for all travelers," Singleton said.

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In a statement, the TSA said racial profiling is not tolerated at security checkpoints and "is also an ineffective security tactic."

To read more about travel, tourism and the airline industry, follow me on Twitter at @hugomartin.

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