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Dutch court bars girl's round-the-world sail attempt

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(Read caption) Thirteen-year-old Laura Dekker poses on her sail boat in Wijk bij Durrstede, Netherlands, in May.

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A 13-year-old Dutch girl's bid to become the youngest person to sail around the world alone was put on hold today when a court put her in the care of a state social-services agency.

The Dutch court ruled that Laura Dekker's parents will temporarily lose the right to make decisions about their child while a psychologist evaluates the impact that a solo round-the-world journey would have on her. She will continue to live with her father while the evaluation is under way. A report is expected by Oct. 16, reports Agence France-Presse.

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The Dutch Child Protection Agency had asked that Laura be placed under state custody, calling her plan to spend about two years circumnavigating the world aboard a 26-foot boat "irresponsible," reports the BBC. The possibility of her voyage was not entirely ruled out, but the child protection agency would now have to agree to the journey before it could take place.

Laura, who wants to break the record for youngest circumnavigaion of the globe set by 17-year-old Mike Perham, who completed his sail Thursday, is not just any 13-year-old, as the Monitor reported yesterday:

Laura says this is her dream. She was born off the coast of New Zealand during a round-the-world-voyage by her parents. She had her own sailboat by age six. At 11, she spent seven weeks at sea alone. She sailed solo from the Netherlands to England last spring – a journey of about 175 miles. When British authorities called her dad, Dick Dekker, and told him to come get her, he refused, insisting she was capable of sailing home alone.

The story raises questions about just how much weight age should be given when measuring a person's capability, and how much control the government should have over decisions parents make about their children. To read more about the debate – and share your thoughts – click here.


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