This month and next, as millions of cars are loaded up to deliver
students to colleges around the country, there's one additional
essential the parents behind Boston-area startup StudentDefend
hope families will remember to pack: an attorney.
"Getting in trouble with the law is something no student or family wants
to think about," says Bonnie Garaventi, co-founder of StudentDefend.
"But the reality is that even the best kids can find themselves in
trouble at college. If that ever happens, it's critical to get
experienced legal advice right away, to keep a bad situation from
This is something Bonnie, a physical therapist, and her husband, Jim,
know all too well after an eye-opening experience with one of their own
children at college. Subsequent conversations with other parents,
students, law enforcement officials, attorneys, and university
administrators led to the idea behind StudentDefend - a 24/7 "hotline"
that provides student members fast, easy and affordable access to
experience defense attorneys in their area, and immediate legal advice.
"It's estimated that one of every nine college students will end up in
trouble with police or other authorities just due to alcohol, and
students really don't have very good options for help at that point,"
explains Jim Garaventi, StudentDefend co-founder and a greater Boston
advertising executive. "Basically, they can either 'cooperate' with
authorities, who may not have the student's best interests at heart, or
call a parent who, if reached, will probably act emotionally and is
unlikely to have the legal knowledge to help right then and there.
"StudentDefend is designed to provide a better option, letting students
connect to a pre-screened defense attorney who will provide urgent legal
advice with just one call."
Like renter's insurance, emergency credit cards and AAA memberships, the
Garaventis believe a legal emergency plan is as important as all the
other measures parents consider to help protect their college-bound
As Bonnie Garaventi points out, "This world has changed since parents
like us were in college. Today, with everything from the exposure social
media generates, to campuses and communities with little tolerance for
pranks, students away from home for the first time can easily find
themselves outside of the law -- often without even realizing it. In
many cases their 'crime' is merely being in the same place as others who
are making a bad choice. Even a minor legal incident can affect their
financial aid, sports eligibility, even their career prospects down the
The StudentDefend website was launched earlier this summer, and coverage
begins September 1, 2014. Membership costs $89 a year or less. A
nation-wide network of attorneys provides coverage in all 50 US states.
About StudentDefendThe first national legal hotline for
college students, StudentDefend's unique service was shaped with
valuable input from experts in the fields of law enforcement, criminal
defense, information services, and college student life. Membership
begins at $89. Parents and students can learn more about this new
service, and join online, at www.studentdefend.com.
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