EducationStatewide NewsAbbott Names New School Safety Chief Four Months After Uvalde Shooting

The state legislature has directed $100 million to bolster mental health and school safety initiatives.
October 5, 2022
Following the Uvalde shooting that claimed the lives of 19 children and two teachers, Gov. Greg Abbott directed the Texas Education Agency (TEA) to create a new position called “Chief of School Safety and Security” (CSSS).

This week, Abbott announced that John P. Scott was chosen for the position. Scott is a former Secret Service agent who worked in Washington, D.C. under the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations before serving as the assistant special agent in charge at the Dallas Secret Service field office.

In a press release following the announcement, Abbott remarked, “Protecting Texas children and making our schools safer for all are top priorities, and John Scott is uniquely qualified to help lead our efforts ensuring their safety and security in Texas schools.”

“I recognize our schools must be safe for students to learn and grow,” said TEA Commissioner Mike Morath. “TEA’s new Chief of School Safety and Security, John Scott, brings incredible security expertise to the role. We are grateful for Governor Abbott’s leadership on this critical issue.”

The role of the new position will be to increase communication between the TEA and other Texas government agencies like the Texas School Safety Center (TSSC), the Department of Public Safety, and local school districts around the state. 

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The TEA describes the TSSC as  “a central location for school safety information…provid[ing] schools with research, training, and technical support to help reduce youth violence and promote school safety.”

The CSSS will also ensure that schools are implementing safety measures passed by the Legislature and using “best practices to safeguard against school shootings or other dangers.”

The hire comes four months after Abbott directed the TEA to create this position and almost two months into the 2022-2023 school year.

Around the time Abbott announced the need for a school safety officer, the state legislature set aside $100 million to increase school safety and bolster mental health initiatives.

Included in this funding was $50 million for bullet-resistant shields, over $15 million for various mental health programs, $10 million for local law enforcement training, and $7 million for the TSSC.

The legislature also directed $17 million for the TEA to divvy up between local school districts to implement “silent panic alert technology.” 

Following the approval of the funding, the TEA released a memo on June 30 titled “Required School Safety Action Steps This Summer.” The document instructs Texas schools to conduct safety audits on their campuses, train staff, and schedule school safety drills. 

The document also states, “[A]dditional funds have just been approved by Governor Abbott and legislative leadership for silent panic alert systems for schools. We are currently working on the details of this grant and will provide more information as soon as it is available.” 

Since this memo was released, there has been no new guidance on the $17 million dedicated to panic alert systems. 

Further memos on school safety have focused on reinforcing the mandated safety audits, staff and law enforcement training, and emergency operations plans, but have been mum in regard to panic alert systems. 

The Texan reached out to a TEA spokesperson for comment but did not receive a response by the time of publication.


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Hudson Callender

Hudson Callender is a reporter for The Texan and a lifelong resident of San Antonio, Texas. Hudson recently graduated cum laude from Trinity University with majors in Economics and Political Science, and loves to study ancient history. Hudson is also an avid mountaineer, backpacker, and paddler, often leading trips to remote wilderness areas. Outside of his love for nature, history, and Lone Star beer, Hudson spends his weekends arguing with his friends about football, and will always stick up for the Baylor Bears, Dallas Cowboys, and San Antonio Spurs.