HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Schoolroom Talk About Plants Giving Away Parents' Grow
Pubdate: Mon, 21 Jan 2002
Source: Vancouver Courier (CN BC)
Copyright: 2002 Vancouver Courier
Author: Mike Howell


Children of Collingwood-area marijuana grow operators are unknowingly 
getting their parents busted by telling classmates and teachers about the 
family business.

Chris Taulu, coordinator of the Collingwood community police office, said 
she knows of two recent cases where young boys revealed enough information 
about grow-ops that teachers were forced to contact police.

In one case, a Grade 1 student told his classmates that his dad was a 
gardener and that he kept plants in a locked room in a basement. The child 
also revealed that his father had five houses with the same set-up, Taulu said.

"The teacher phoned us right away, we checked the houses and they were all 
grow-ops," she said.

In another case, where students were planting bean sprout seeds as part of 
a school project, a young student told his classmates that the proper way 
to grow a plant was with big lights and tarps-just like his father, a 
gardener, does at home in the basement. The teacher notified police, who 
discovered a grow-op, Taulu said.

It's rare for police to receive such tips from schools, but in a city with 
an estimated 10,000 grow-ops-a large number of which are run by members of 
the Vietnamese community-Taulu said many students are going to school 
knowing something illegal is going on at home.

"I'm a grandmother and a mother... when you put your children at that kind 
of risk, then I've got a problem," Taulu said.

For educators, who deal with myriad student behaviour problems, it's not 
always easy to pinpoint living in a grow-op as the source of a student's 
anxiety or nervousness. At Graham Bruce elementary school, for example, it 
wasn't until a young girl and her brother failed to attend school after a 
bust that staff made the connection. The girl, a Grade 4 student, always 
seemed nervous or worried, said principal Patty Neibel.

"We were trying to help her at school and then we realized it had nothing 
to do with school," Neibel said. "We found out later they were living in a 
grow-op. As a principal, you want kids to be happy in school, but I think 
she probably lived in constant fear. Whether there are other children in 
our school living in these arrangements-there well could be, but it hasn't 
been brought to our attention."

At Graham Bruce, which has a population of 330 students, kids are given 
anti-drug talks by the school's police liaison officer and have 
participated in workshops organized by the Collingwood office focusing on 
educating children not to take drugs. Identifying grow-ops is not part of 
talks aimed at students, but principals like Neibel participate in 
workshops where grow-ops are discussed.

Neibel said grow-ops are not only dangerous because of the crude wiring and 
booby traps. As Sgt. Rollie Woods attests, most of them are disgusting 
places filled with mold and contaminated air from the carbon dioxide used 
to grow the plants.

"It's poisonous and you've got to know it's got to have an effect on 
anybody who's living in there, especially kids," said Woods, who is in 
charge of the Vancouver police drug squad.

Woods said he feels sorry for the children who not only carry the burden of 
their parents operating a criminal enterprise but of the dangers it can 
bring. "Psychologically, these kids going to school know [grow-ops are] 
wrong. They're told not to talk about it, and that's got to have an effect 
on them. It's their own little dirty secret."

When Woods was a member of the police emergency response team, he said, a 
man broke into a home and fired a shot into the ceiling of a suspected drug 
den. Children were inside the house, which had evidence of a former grow-op 
in the basement. Police surrounded the house and called the gunman out, as 
well as the family inside.

"Nobody was shot, but it's awful to experience that," said Woods, adding 
that police officers dressed in balaclavas and carrying big guns terrified 
the children.

When police raid a home with marijuana plants, police will contact the 
Ministry of Children and Family Development, which will either place the 
children with relatives or keep them until their parents are released from 
custody, said Marisa Adair, spokeswoman for the ministry.

Whenever there's a concern for the safety and well-being of the child, 
social workers will make a decision to place them in an environment that's 
in "the best interest of the child," Adair said.

In some cases, however, Woods said police will turn children over to the 
ministry only to find the same children in another grow operation, run by 
relatives, two days later. The ministry does not keep statistics on how 
many children are seized from grow-ops.
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