Gov. Greg Abbott Appoints First School Safety Chief Four Months After Uvalde Shooting

John P. Scott, a former U.S. Secret Service agent, is tasked with implementing statewide safety policies and safeguard against school shootings

Gov. Greg Abbott speaks during a press conference a day after the Uvalde school shooting in May. On Monday, he appointed John P. Scott, a former Secret Service agent, to serve as the first chief of school safety and security, a position the governor created after the mass shooting. (Sergio Flores / The Texas Tribune)

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Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday appointed former U.S. Secret Service agent John P. Scott as the Texas Education Agency’s first chief of school safety and security, a position the governor created in response to the Uvalde mass school shooting that left 19 students and two teachers dead.

Scott formerly served as a Secret Service agent in the Vice Presidential Protective Division from 2006 and 2010 during the administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama, according to his LinkedIn profile. He later helped lead the Secret Service field office in Dallas.

In his new role, which started Monday, Scott will “take every action possible to ensure schools are using best practices to safeguard against school shootings or other dangers,” according to a press release from Abbott’s office.

Abbott directed the TEA to create the position four months ago in June, just over two weeks after the Robb Elementary School shooting in Uvalde.

Abbott’s press release on Monday listed other actions the governor has taken since the Uvalde shooting, including his pledge of $105.5 million to “enhance school safety and mental health services” in Uvalde and across the state.

Since the shooting in May, Uvalde parents have called to raise the age to buy semi-automatic rifles — the kind of guns that the Uvalde gunman bought immediately after his 18th birthday in May — from 18 to 21. In August, Abbott said it would be “unconstitutional” to raise the age, citing a federal ruling that Texas cannot ban 18- to 20-year-olds from carrying handguns. Since then, Texas has started the process to appeal that ruling, but Abbott has not said whether a successful appeal would change his stance on the constitutionality of raising the age to buy semi-automatic rifles.

On Friday, the families of Uvalde school shooting victims publicly endorsed Beto O’Rourke, who is running against Abbott in November, just hours ahead of the two candidates’ only planned debate. O’Rourke said at the debate that he would focus on raising the age to buy semi-automatic rifles to 21 if he were elected next month in addition to supporting universal background checks and red-flag laws, which would allow judges to seize firearms from people deemed dangerous.

O’Rourke attacked Abbott at the debate for refusing to call a special legislative session to discuss school safety and gun laws after the Uvalde shooting. He also attacked the governor for expanding gun access in Texas by signing a law allowing Texans who can legally carry guns to carry handguns without a license or training and for sending a video message to the National Rifle Association’s conference in Houston just days after the shooting in Uvalde.

Scott and the TEA could not be immediately reached for comment.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune, a member-supported, nonpartisan newsroom informing and engaging Texans on state politics and policy. Learn more at texastribune.org.

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