Columbine shooters | Dylan Klebold | CHIPS
Challenging High Intellect Potential Students
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As I'm not a resident of Colorado, it took me a couple of years to find out what CHIPS was. I knew from my research that Dylan Klebold was involved in this program but that's about it. More research and a little help from a student who went to Columbine finally shed light on the mystery. I'd received an email from the student about another matter and thought it couldn't hurt to ask. Here's what he told me:

It stands for "Challenging High Intellectual Potential Students". I think it's primarily for late grade school and middle school ages. One of my best friends, [name removed*] sat next to him [Dylan] in that class. He had the same description for him [Dylan] as most I've heard, "real nice guy, a little bit dorky". There's very little information on the web about the program. I suspect that after the press it recieved from the Columbine incident they either discontinued it or changed it's name.

Knowing [name of student's friend removed*], I'd say you have to be pretty gifted to get into the program. He was a child prodigy when he was 14 when I met him, and probably younger. I'm not sure what the requirements were exactly to get in, but it's a safe bet that Dylan was extremely intelligent.

Well, there's still very little about the program on the web but they haven't discontinued or changed the name of the program. You can find mention of it in Colorado School Guides glossary and I found the following description on the web as well, from someone who attended the program (all spelling errors are as they appeared in the original author's entry):

..I got transferred to an experimental program for gifted and talented students. Of course diagnosing who's really creative and who's just an ADD psycho at that age is impossible, so my class had a little of both. It was called CHIPS (for Challenging High Intellectual Potential Students). And it was great. If you wanted to go to the bathroom, you didn't have to raise your hand, you just went. If you got all your work done by Thursday, you could whatever you wanted all day on Friday (legally we still had to come to school - or at least arrange our own field trips). We could go as fast and as far we wanted. I had licked Algebra and Trig by the time I finished 6th grade. Teachers didn't make the rules as much as they were agreed on in open committees. It was crazy. The only real drawback - it only lasted thru 6th grade.**

I wonder what the transition for Dylan was like, from the CHIPS program into regular junior high. It must've been real hard. The fellow who wrote the above went on to say:

Suddenly I was in junior high. Having to pretend to be re-learning all this crap. Knowing none of these people who all grew up together. Bored. Scared. I pissed my pants a couple of times in seventh grade, simply because I was too embarrassed to ask for a hall pass. Didn't exactly gain a great reputation.**

This fellow never knew Dylan but from what Brooks Brown described in his book No Easy Answers: The Truth Behind Death at Columbine about the program, Dylan's experiences weren't all that different from what is described above. The major difference is that the fellow from the story above is alive today and making music based on his experiences, and having a good time to judge from the rest of his bio. Dylan.. is dead.

Brooks Brown, like Dylan, was smart enough to qualify for the program; they attended it together. He says in his book that CHIPS was made up of two types of students: The ones who genuinely earned a place there due to their test scores and those who managed to get a spot thanks to the fact that their parents knew people who could pull strings. According to Brooks, Dylan almost lost his spot in the program because the people making the choices had decided that there weren't enough girls who passed the test. The Klebolds protested and Dylan's spot was secured.

CHIPS was supposed to be a place where smart students could excel; where they could take advantage of their intellectual prowess to get a leg up on life. Instead it was a shark tank where students were locked in a state of one-upsmanship that included sabotage of other students' projects. It was an environment where teachers looked the other way when students picked on each other.

The program was housed at Governor's Ranch Elementary, where non-accelerated classes took place as well. Students in the CHIPS program found it difficult to mesh with other kids there as the other students regarded them as a group of intellectual snobs. I've seen this same 'fishbowl' effect in the accelerated program at the school my kids attend. Kids who aren't in the accelerated program envy and despise the ones that are for being singled out as "special". I've seen kids quit the program because they got tired of being isolated in the 'fishbowl'. My oldest was in the program for years and, on graduating to high school, politely refused to move on to the next accelerated program for the very same reason, despite being amply qualified.

For Brooks, the hateful environment in CHIPS soured him on school in general. He quit the program - the only student in his class who did - and attended John L. Schaffer Elementary instead, a school recommended to his parents by Dylan's parents because their oldest son Byron attended it and they were all quite happy with it. Brooks was glad to get out of the CHIPS environment but his enthusiasm for school never rebounded. Dylan stayed with the program - Brooks theorized Dylan knew it meant a lot to his parents that he was in the program and so he didn't want to let them down by dropping out... even at the expense of his own personal happiness. Dylan was miserable in CHIPS but he stuck it out for the sake of making his parents proud.

* edited to protect the uninvolved individual's privacy
** excerpted from a blog (link no longer works)