After 12 years of teaching, Felicia Dangerfield-Persky knows the importance of interpreting her students' misbehavior with grace and empathy.

On some occasions, she's had no choice but to report students who show up to school with weapons or drugs. But more often, she said, it's up to her to decide whether a student's tone of voice, for instance, is worth shuffling them off to the administration for formal discipline.

How a teacher responds to those situations can come down to cultural understanding.

"Some students are loud because they don't have a choice. They may live in a house with 12 people where they have to yell to get their point across," Dangerfield-Persky said, citing eye or neck rolls as examples of body language accepted as displays of passion in Black communities that are often misinterpreted as defiance in schools.

But if teachers don't understand that, she added, "that's when culture differences lead to disrespect, lead to defiance, lead to subordination, lead to going home."

About 7% of K-12 teachers and 11% of principals in the United States are Black. Those numbers are largely a result of school-desegregation policies in the 1960s and '70s displacing Black educators from their once segregated community schools.

Although Dangerfield-Persky may err on the side of addressing frustrating student behavior through informal conversation, federal data showed that not every educator shares her perspective.

Black students make up about 15% of students enrolled in American grade schools, yet in the 2015-2016 school year, they accounted for 31% of all referrals to law enforcement or school-related arrests, showed a report from the US Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights.

Yet white students, who make up nearly half of the total population, accounted for 36% of referrals and school-related arrests.

The disparities are not as stark for Hispanic or Latino students, but they're there: Hispanic males make up 13% of all students, yet they accounted for 16% of expulsions during the 2015-16 school year.

Those disparities are simultaneously greasing the school-to-prison pipeline — the trend of zero-tolerance discipline policies funneling students into the juvenile or adult criminal-justice system — and disengaging students from learning, which research showed widened academic achievement gaps.

Read the full article about school discipline by Kathryn Palmer at Business Insider.