West Virginia Supreme Court judges say children who skip school and drop out end up as adults who commit crimes and land in prison.
So they are giving the problem of truancy a hard look.
Justice Robin Jean Davis has a strong message to everyone who deals with young people.
She held a public meeting at the Ohio County Courthouse.
In the audience were school superintendents, principals and teachers, judges, prosecutors, magistrates and social workers.
The message comes from the realization that a kid who skips school will likely become an adult behind bars.
"Let me give you a staggering statistic," says Justice Davis. "Eight out of ten persons in West Virginia jails and prisons were dropouts."
Davis said she understands there are legitimate reasons for missing school, including illness or a family trip.
But she said five or more missed days in a semester is now officially considered truancy.
"It begins very early in preschool and kindergarten," Davis said. "And the reason the supreme court is getting involved in this is to stop this truancy on the front end."
Circuit Judge Alan Moats, of the 19th District, began an anti-truancy and dropout program in Barbour and Taylor counties.
The judges now urge everyone in the system to work together.
"We're not talking about what most of us thought of as 'playing hooky' when we were kids," said Moats. "That's not what this is about."
They say this problem is in crisis mode, and that it can only be corrected by everyone joining the battle.
And they have this message for parents.
"Get your children to school," says Davis. "Because if you don't, then we will see in one fashion or another that the children are in school. The circuit judges have the ability to file educational neglect petitions against parents who do not see that their children are in school. And our circuit judges are beginning to do that."
In the end, the judges say it doesn't matter how good the teacher is; they can't teach to an empty chair.