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Columbus lawyer focuses on school-to-prison pipeline

Ohio State Bar Association member Sarah Biehl is a Columbus attorney whose aim is to decrease injustice and inequality. “I always wanted to find a career where I could do intellectual work, but also have an impact on the lives of real people,” Biehl said. “Somehow, I landed on the legal profession.”

Biehl is currently the policy director for the Children’s Defense Fund Ohio, where she researches and addresses the effects of poverty on children from infancy through the years of their formal education. Her interest in this area is not new. Through her work at the Ohio Poverty Law Center and the Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago, Biehl began noticing a phenomenon she refers to as the “school-to-prison pipeline.” While she first witnessed the phenomenon’s impact during her time in Chicago, it is now the focus of her attention.

“There are a whole range of policies and practices in our educational systems that push children out of school and into juvenile correctional institutions,” she said. “We can’t just look at schools and parents to solve the issue; we also need to address the underlying effects of poverty, nutrition and more.”

Speaking of the type of change she hopes will be implemented in schools, Biehl says, “Our best bet is to de-emphasize suspension and expulsion in schools, and to re-emphasize a focus on every child as an individual.” She adds, “Such change has to come from the community; lawyers can definitely bring the tools to the table for taking action, but the parents have to lead the charge for change in their local schools.”

In addition to her involvement with the OSBA, Biehl is the president of American Constitution Society Columbus Lawyer Chapter and serves on the board of directors for the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio.

Biehl completed her undergraduate degree in English and Spanish at The Ohio State University, and earned her law degree at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law.

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