FORT WALTON BEACH -- Gunshots rang out at an Aug. 25, 2018, high school football game at Raines High School in Jacksonville. In the aftermath, a 19-year-old former student lay dead and two still enrolled at the school had been injured.
Spectators, including students and staff members, were hurriedly evacuated from the stadium as police began their search for the gunman, who was arrested a few days later and identified a 16-year-old student, according to media reports.
This shooting, along with two more on the same night at football games in other states, happened not long after the tragic Feb. 14, 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that killed 17 students and staff members.
Since then, security at football games has been increased locally.
In Okaloosa County, deputies and student resource officers started training with rifles in the summer of 2018 and have since been required to carry them visibly at football games.
Cullen Coraine, student resource officer at Liza Jackson Preparatory School, and other SROs are in charge of tactical training for the Okaloosa County SRO unit.
“We didn’t want to just hand rifles to a lot of people that might not be familiar with them, so we were like, ‘Let’s spend a whole summer training with them,’ ” Coraine said.
RELATED: School safety at a Panhandle middle school
Bryan Leavins, the student resource deputy (SRD) at Walton County’s Emerald Coast Middle School, said they typically cover football games, and patrol deputies sign up to do so if for some reason they cannot.
“We’ve been very fortunate,” Leavins said. “The incidents we’ve had have been typical kids wanting to be rowdy, which is something we deal with every day.
“It makes it easier for a SRD to be there because we deal with it every day,” he said.
But security outside of school doesn’t end at football games.
Security at graduations has also become a concern, though some schools opted for a route other than having officers carrying weapons at the more formal events.
Attendants of the Navarre High School graduation, held at the Bay Center in Pensacola, were subjected to walking through a metal detector before finding their seats.
Coraine said when he became an SRO in 2015, SROs were only required to work football games, but now they are required to be present at every extracurricular activity.
“Everything has happened very rapidly,” Coraine said. ”... I just go to everything.”
Coraine said officers are paid to cover school events using compensatory time, of which they are credited 140 hours.
“But we burn through that, and most of us just end up (working for free). Some of the schools can cut a check when you run out of comp time, or it’s just volunteer our hours,” Coraine said.
In Okaloosa County, deputies patrolled graduations with rifles.
In Walton County, deputies are armed as they monitor the crowd on foot patrols, but they don’t carry the rifles “slung” over their shoulder like they do in Okaloosa County.
That doesn’t mean security isn’t a priority.
Walton County is no different than other places, where security at school functions like football games and graduation ceremonies is becoming more necessary, Leavins said.
“The man that’s over all of safety for the school district wants us here anytime someone’s here,” he said. “Slowly and surely we’re becoming more and more present at every event.”