The Bay Village City School District has seen a number of changes this year as students returned to in-person learning. One of those is the district’s first-ever student resource officer..
Officer Ben Kitchen will be tasked with school security and community relations for the entire school district.
“Ben is known in the community with the children. He attends block parties and games, so he already has a great connection here,” said Superintendent Jodie Hausmann. “Chief Leasure also spoke highly of him.”
Before this, the district had school liaisons from the police department, but those were temporary positions. One of Hausmann’s main goals since becoming superintendent was to create a permanent SRO position in the district. It’s unclear why there wasn’t an SRO before.
Kitchen’s duties will include security and running a drug and alcohol awareness class for grades five through 12. He will be paid $37 an hour, his normal pay for being an officer, with the school district paying 70% of his wages and the city covering 30%, Hausman said.
Kitchen began work Sept. 14, when students returned for in-person learning. The SRO is spending most of his time at the high school now, but he plans to divide his time between the middle school and the high school.
“I think the biggest obstacle I’m going to have is showing these students that they can trust me,” said Kitchen, 29. “I want them to know that they can come to me about anything and that I’m there to make sure they’re safe.”
Being a part of the school system has been a goal for a long time. Kitchen’s cousin was a student at Chardon High School when T.J. Lane opened fire in the school cafeteria, killing three students and wounding three others in 2012. Luckily, his cousin was out sick when the shooting happened.
“It led me to becoming an SRO, because I wanted to prevent something like that from happening here in Bay Village,” Kitchen said. “As soon as I heard that the district was looking for an SRO, I applied immediately.”
Kitchen has been an officer for seven years. He got his start in law enforcement as a part-time patrol officer in Vermillion then became a Lorain County sheriff’s deputy. He started working in Bay Village in 2015 and has since been a part of the school district’s We Care Committee, a group focused on improving the lives of Bay students.
Kitchen graduated from Lorain County Community College in 2012. Soon after, he graduated from the LCCC Police Academy, he said.
A resident of Huron, Kitchen understands the importance of protecting children. This year he and his wife, Brittany, welcomed their now 2-month-old son, Logan, into the family with their 2-year-old daughter, Eva.
Born and raised in Lorain, Kitchen is the oldest of four. Growing up, he learned how to repair cars in his dad Terry’s auto repair shop. His mother, Denise, was a nurse at an assisted-living facility, which Kitchen said contributed to his interest in serving the community.
SROs have been in schools since the 1950s, starting in Flint, Michigan. There are about 20,000 SROs working in the U.S., according to the National Association of School Resource Officers.
Hausmann is excited to have an SRO to mentor students.
“It’s a really positive step,” she said. “The SRO is an extension of the adults that serve these students. I think it’s a wonderful beginning.”
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