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Some airport screeners won't need diplomas

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- An author of the aviation security law that goes into effect next month said Sunday she would prefer airport security screeners have at least a high school education, but it is a "judgment call."

"The law that we passed increased the qualification requirements. It did say you should have a high school diploma or equivalency, but it did give the option for the [Transportation] Department to allow someone without that to have work experience to make up for that," Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, told Fox News Sunday.

The department posted hiring requirements on its Web site December 19 for those seeking jobs as passenger and baggage screeners. Among the requirements in the posting was a high school or equivalency diploma or one year of relevant experience.

"I would prefer for us to upgrade across the board, but I also believe that there can be a judgment call here, and if someone has good experience and has shown the ability to do the job, that should not be a disqualifier," said Hutchison, who serves on the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

"Even the military doesn't require a high school diploma if other things are shown to overcome that," Hutchison said.

The law, she said, imposes stricter requirements for screeners in the areas of testing, training and proficiency in English, and those are not flexible.

Hutchison said she would hope that people hired as airport screeners could be promoted to jobs with more responsibilities after gaining experience.

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"That's why I want to have better qualifications and I also want an upward mobility," the senator said.

On a related issue, Hutchison said other governments should have security regulations that are as strict as those in the United States before flights from those countries can enter the United States.

A case in point was the December 22 flight from Paris carrying Richard Reid, 28, who was arrested after allegedly trying to light explosives hidden in his shoes with a match. Reid is charged with interfering with a flight crew.

His flight left Paris bound for Miami but was diverted to Boston after a flight attendant saw him trying to set fire to one of his shoes.

Investigators were interested in learning how Reid was able to board the American Airlines flight after being detained in Paris a day earlier for suspicious behavior.

French officials ultimately cleared Reid, but he missed his original flight and spent the night at a hotel courtesy of American Airlines, sources told CNN.

"Everybody has to have an [security] agreement before they can fly into our airspace," Hutchison said.


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