He said most parents at truancy hearings claim their children catch "every illness that comes down the pike," while others claim they provided their children an excuse but they just didn't turn it in. Some parents admitted their children didn't attend school because they simply did not get out of bed, Moats said.
He said some parents don't value education because they themselves are high school dropouts. Of the 24 students who dropped out in Barbour County last year, 92 percent had at least one parent who dropped out of school, Moats said.
"I'm willing to bet that's probably pretty typical around the state," he said. "Dropouts beget more dropouts who beget more dropouts."
Moats said absenteeism can wreck students' lives.
"Dropouts can't get jobs. So when they quit school, they're going to get in trouble," he said.
Citing data from the Mattie C. Stewart Foundation, a nonprofit group focused on reducing the national dropout rate, Moats told lawmakers eight out of 10 dropouts nationwide end up in prison, and 75 percent of prison inmates are high school dropouts.
The foundation's website also lists those statistics but does not include any sources for the data.
Still, Moats said Division of Corrections Commissioner Jim Rubenstein assured him the statistics are similar in West Virginia prisons.
"This is destroying our state, slowly but surely," he said.
In a recent court term, Moats saw 44 indictments. Thirty-one were for high school dropouts.
He told lawmakers there is no quick fix for truancy.
"The longer I do it, the fewer answers I have. There is no way you as legislators can legislate our way out of this problem. It has to be solved collectively at the community level," he said.
Moats encouraged principals to initiative in addressing frequent absences at their schools.
Davis recently commissioned a survey of state circuit court judges about the issue. She presented the results of that survey, as well as a list of suggestions from the judges, to subcommittee members on Monday.Judges recommended lawmakers stiffen state laws on repeat tardiness, not just absences. They also said the Legislature needs to address whether parents with more than one frequently-absent child should be charged more than once.