Off Limits

Rules rule in Denver Public Schools, but there's a difference between the golden ones and those that are tarnished with age. And as part of his effort to revamp DPS, new superintendent Jerry Wartgow last month created the Dumb Rules Committee, with the goal of getting to the bottom of any ridiculous regulations and, if possible, banishing them. So far, more than eighty nominations have been submitted (anyone from students and parents to teachers and administrators can nominate dumb rules by e-mailing them to, of which 46 are posted on the special Dumb Rules Web site (

Some of the nominations are serious, some are funny, some don't really address rules at all. But the process itself appears to be cathartic for those who've participated. A learning experience, you could say. For example:

Nomination #2: "Literary experts recommend covering classroom walls with print for elementary school students. I understand the fire department has issued a code that says only 20 percent of a wall may be covered with things. How unfortunate for our students."

Reply from DPS: "Principals, teachers, parents and students also enjoy seeing child-prepared artwork and teaching materials displayed in classrooms. However, the district must comply with Denver fire code unless and until that code is changed."

Progress: "District officials are talking with the Denver Fire Department about this issue. Safety concerns will be at the top of the school district's list of priorities."

Nomination #34: "Our school supply list was given out on the first day of school and we were required to have all their supplies the very next day -- without the supplies, the students lose points on their grade. What about working parents? We cannot just drop everything to go get supplies. We generally reserve the weekend for these types of activities."

Reply: "This is a procedure managed by the school, in this case Hamilton Middle School."

Progress: "No student should be penalized on this issue. Any parent who hears of this happening should contact the school principal. It's inappropriate for teachers to imply that a penalty is involved with bringing supplies. At Hamilton, a general supply list was listed in the school newsletter and supply lists were sent to students enrolled in the magnet programs (since most of those students are identified before the school year begins)."

More telling than the dumb rules submitted, perhaps, is the fact that some of the nominations are completely incomprehensible -- whether because the rules themselves are beyond idiotic, or because DPS bureaucracy has befuddled the brains of the people who e-mailed them, or because our educational system failed long ago. Or all of the above. It's a good thing rules were made to be broken.


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