Tuesday August 25th, 2009
The parents of 13 year-old Laura Dekker, who wants to sail single handed round the world, could be stripped of their parental rights. Laura was hoping to set sail on Sept 1st. However Dutch child protection agencies intervened when her parents applied to take her out of school for 2 years. The case is now being heard in a civil court in Utrecht and the Dekker’s parental custody has been suspended.
Spokesman for the youth protection services Richard Bakker said 'By travelling solo for two years, this teenager's basic needs would not be met… Yet the father continues to insist that his daughter will depart on 1 September. That is worrying which is why we have asked to the court to intervene.'
Laura’s father Dick Dekker is not to be swayed though, 'We realize that it is a dangerous undertaking… But a court which knows nothing about Laura will decide. We would not let our child do something of which she was not in complete control.'
Laura herself has no doubts in her ability to achieve her dream and has had this to say, 'My parents always knew it was a dream of mine to do this. I want to do it while I'm still young so that I can break the record. Since I was 10 I had this idea I could do a tour of the world. I simply want to discover the world and have a taste of freedom.”
She also said, 'Because my parents have sailed round the world themselves, they know perfectly well what can happen and that it's not always fun. But because I really want to do it, they think it's okay and they've helped me. They've looked after me just fine for 13 years, so I don't see why they would suddenly go wrong now.'

Her intention to continue her education via e-mail and internet has also been nixed by Deputy Education Minister Marja van Bijsterveld who made it clear to the court that it contravenes the Compulsory Education Act.
Amongst the high profile protestors is director of the Enkhuizen School of Seamanship, Bernt Folmer who had this to say, 'Can a girl of 13 physically deal with the ocean? You're on your own keeping a ship on course, but you also have to sleep. There can be huge waves and your ship can sustain serious damage. When she's got a broken mast on heavy seas, can a girl make herself safe again? I can't see it happening. You're much more vulnerable on your own than you are with other people.'

Professor of Pedagogy Micha de Winter is also against Laura attempting her dream voyage, 'From a professional point of view, a great deal is known about the development of children at that age… You're very busy with your social and emotional development. You really need contact with your parents, with other adults and with people your own age. These are very important issues during adolescence. I think it's a very bad idea to spend two years on your own. I think her dream will just have to stay a dream for the time being.'
The court is expected to make a final decision this week.
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