Leading LGBTQ publication praises Bob’s leadership and compassion.
The below is excerpted from an article in the June 2020 issue of The Advocate. To read the whole article, click here.
Meet the Gay Headmaster of California's Progressive Crossroads School Bob Riddle is setting the bar high for LGBTQ educators.
By David Artavia
Schools aren’t always safe spaces for LGBTQ youth. In a 2017 study, GLSEN (formerly the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network) found that 60 percent of LGBTQ students felt unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation, 45 percent due to their gender expression, and 35 percent because of their gender. During lockdowns, educators may find it difficult to provide the kind of support LGBTQ youth need, especially if they didn’t offer it previously.
That’s what makes places like Crossroads School for Arts & Sciences in Santa Monica, Calif., even more important now. Under Bob Riddle, the school’s current headmaster and a proud gay man, Crossroads is equipping students with not only professional skills but a keen awareness about society and culture.
When the school was founded by Paul Cummins in 1971, its mission was to “bring joy back into education,” Riddle explains. But then came the inevitable question: How? How do you create a welcoming space where all kids are happy?
“One way you do that is you give them a voice. You listen to them,” Riddle elucidates. “I still quote this book our founder used to quote, ‘The Lives of Children’ by George Dennison. The author argues we need to recognize that schools are not places, but they are at their heart relationships—relationships between students and students, students and teachers, and teachers and teachers. We need to nurture and cultivate those relationships.”
The school’s progressive curriculum is itself groundbreaking. In the 1980s, it tackled anti-queer sentiment by creating a seminar focusing on racism, sexism, and homophobia. Crossroads later established a support group for LGBTQ youth and their allies. A few years later, in the early ’90s, administrators rolled out a curriculum for grades K-5 that included history lessons about the civil rights movement and the fight for LGBTQ equality—all with the purpose of giving kids a chance to ask questions.