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By Marian A. Maraya

SAIPAN, Northern Mariana Islands (August 8, 2000 – Saipan Tribune)---The new administration of Hopwood Junior High School has vowed to enforce a proper dress code among its students, ruling out skimpy, daring tank tops and excessively loose pants or skirts both for female and male students.

Returning Hopwood Principal David Borja yesterday said the fresh move has been enforced to create a school spirit more conducive for learning.

Vice Principal for Curriculum, Instruction and Discipline Brenda Haddox had to call parents of close to 20 students during yesterday's school opening for a fresh change of clothes.

"Some of them were wearing spaghetti straps and outfits which revealed a lot of flesh," said Ms. Haddox. "We want the kids to be really focused on learning so we require outfits that cover more skin."

The imposition of a dress code is not new for public schools, according to Ms. Haddox. At Hopwood particularly, there has been an apparent need for the policy's stricter enforcement.

"I am not sure how much it has been a problem versus how much it has been enforced. Hopefully, through this, the kids will gain some self-respect in their clothing and the way they carry themselves," she said.

In efforts to prevent the formation of gangs, the administration also said it will not permit students to wear bandannas and other accessories symbolic of gangs.

"Despite this, the school opening went on smoothly for us," the principal and vice principal said during yesterday's final class period.

Mr. Borja, who was principal of the junior high some four years ago, noted some changes on the campus.

"I see the students appear to be younger, in a way, which is positive," he said. But the new principal also admitted some students' attitudes still need further reshaping.

"I think it's just a matter of understanding and knowing the reason why they behave in the manner that they do. It is important that we remind them of the reason they are here -- to learn," he said.

Mr. Borja's approach to handling difficult students rests on three main elements: exercising firmness, fairness, and consistency.

For a principal tasked to handle the toughest crowd of students on the island, he considers this approach very handy and effective. "With parents' support, it works," said Mr. Borja.

With all eyes on Hopwood as it slowly recuperates from previous challenges in student discipline, Mr. Borja confesses he somehow feels the pressure.

"But for me, the pressure is really more self-inflicted because it is my goal to help. The reason why I am here is for the children," said Mr. Borja.

Before accepting his current post, Mr. Borja taught mathematics at Marianas High School and was an appointed member of the Board of Education representing the teachers.

Meanwhile, students registered at Hopwood for the academic year have reached 1,224 and the number is still growing, according to Ms. Haddox, who noted some late registrants.

Some parents failed to register their children on the scheduled dates.

For additional reports from The Saipan Tribune, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The Saipan Tribune.

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