Created By: AndreaTx on January 3, 2018 Last Edited By: AndreaTx on January 9, 2018
Troped

School Is Murder

A school where suspicious student deaths are the norm

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It's more or less accepted that the High School years can be tough as teenagers are working to learn the skills they need for post-high school life, figure out how they fit in, and learn to be comfortable in their own skin. It's not easy, but generally it shouldn't be deadly either.

This trope focuses on works with teenaged protagonists who have to attend school on a regular basis, but where they live attending high school is tantamount to taking their life into their own hands because classmates commonly become possessed, suddenly super powered or simply completely flip out. If they're not worried about their classmates, they should be concerned about outsiders as the school often comes under siege by the Big Bad whose primary concern is wreaking havoc. In these scenarios, suspicious student deaths are the norm and most of the students in the building are red shirts.

In schools where this trope is in effect, Weirdness Censor will usually keep the adults in charge from noticing the trend and closing the school until they can figure out away to prevent these attacks and murders. If they are aware of what's going on, their concerns are dismissed by higher ups who want to maintain status quo or law enforcement listens but has no clue how to stop the threat.

Not to be confused with Academy of Evil where students are learning to be murderous villains, Inner City School where students may fall victim to mundane murder, or Deadly Graduation where students are safe day to day but have to kill or be killed in order to be promoted to the next level or successfully complete the program.

May require the protagonist to Wake Up, Go to School, Save the World.

Contrast Academy of Adventure where every school day is full of thrills but no one ever dies.

No Real Life Examples, Please!

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You Would Not Want to Live in Dex

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School Tropes

No Real Life Examples, Please!


Examples

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    Film 
  • In the 1976 movie "Massacre at Central High', the student body is tormented by a trio of bullies. After new student David refuses to fall in line and intervenes in their Attempted Rape of two female students, they cripple him by kicking the jack from under the car he's working on, crushing his leg. This sends David on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge in which he kills the bullies in increasingly sadistic and gruesome ways. His revenge, however, does not stop once the bullies are dead and he begins to murder fellow bullying victims. Despite the absurdly high number of students that die under suspicious circumstances, the school is never shut down. No adults are even seen on screen until the final scene where the police show up to arrest the wrong suspects following David's Karmic Death.
    Live Action TV 
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: At Sunnydale High, student death is an accepted fact of life. It's not uncommon for any gathering place for teenagers to be over run by murderous bad guys. The principal insists it's thugs hopped up on PCP. During graduation, this trend is lampshaded with Buffy's senior class celebrating having the lowest mortality rate in Sunnydale High history.
  • In Class (2016), Coal Hill Academy (which has a decades-long previous history in the Doctor Who franchise) has an unusually high death rate. The school and its students and staff are routinely attacked because of it's Weirdness Magnet status which attracts Big Bads from across space and time. The first episode, "For Tonight We Might Die", focused on the disappearance and death of Kevin Williams. Another student commented on his disappearance saying:
    "Everyone knows students at this school disappear. They all just pretend it isn't happening."
  • In a slightly older version of the trope, Scream Queens features the ladies of Kappa Kappa Tau who are being systematically and grotesquely murdered by the serial killer, The Red Devil. While these deaths are concerning to the general student body and the police investigate, the weekly multiple murders aren't seen as sufficient reason to shutter the sorority (which has threatened litigation if day-to-day function is hampered in any way) or to suspend classes at the university for student safety. Nearly the entire sorority is murdered or accused of murder over the course of the first season, but it is treated like a bothersome in-house issue.
  • During Clark's teenaged years at Smallville High, one student a week would be revealed as a kryptofreak. They would usually kill one or two other students before Clark was able to figure out what was going on and stop them. In the first few episodes, the student body would be shown mourning the victims, but by season 2, dead classmates didn't even register as a blip on their collective radar.
  • In the Supernatural episode "After School Special", no one seems particularly alarmed that the students suddenly start maiming and killing each other, with the assaults being treated like aggressive bullying. Authorities are not called in and Sam and Dean only show up because Sam reads about the attacks and remembers having attended the school as a kid. Since the cops were never called, Sam and Dean have to infiltrate as a custodian and a substitute gym teacher.
  • Todd and the Book of Pure Evil: The town of Crowley Heights was founded by Satanist seeking a place to worship the Dark Lord in peace. As a result, Crowley High is a Weirdness Magnet as would be expected in a town founded by a satanic cult. The students routinely die brutally and ironically as part of the backlash of a wish they made using the book. Everyone knows the risk of casting a wish, but seem to think they will be the exception. The adults know what's happening but are either useless or evil.
    Video Game 
  • Dangan Ronpa. A group of students are invited by mysterious letter to attend Hope's Peak Academy. Once there, the invited group is forced to participate in a "death game" orchestrated by an animatronic bear. In order to win, the designated murderer must get away with murdering another student. All the other participants are working to uncover the true murderer. Death is the punishment for failure. If the murderer escapes detection, they will be the lone survivor. If the group unmasks the murderer, they will be released and the murderer executed. Despite the rules indicating that there has been at least one survivor per group, word has not spread to shut the school down and warn people against accepting the invites.
  • Yandere Simulator: The method the player character uses to win the affections of their love interest, Senpai can create this type of school. The objective is to eliminate ten romantic rivals. Methods can be as benign as matchmaking your rival with another boy, more devious such as framing them for cheating on a test and getting them expelled, or completely vicious such as driving them to suicide or murdering them outright. If students start disappearing and bodies turn up as clear evidence of a murderous serial killer, the school's "atmosphere" level drops, making students apprehensive, frightened, and extremely vigilant. While the more paranoid atmosphere increases the game difficulty, multiple student deaths does not result in an automatic game over.
    Web Animation 
  • Shut Up Cartoons series Oishi High School Battle, has Oishi Kawaii, a demon slayer from outerspace attending an Earth high school. However all of the demonic threats she fights have followed her over. As a result, student and staff deaths are pretty much a daily occurence, to the point where the school principal gets annoyed rather than horrified when notified of casualties.
    Western Animation 
  • In Detentionaire, A. Nigma High appears to be an ordinary school at first glance, but as the series progresses it's anything but normal. For one the school is run by a cyborg principal who's a former army general and Drill Sergeant Nasty, constantly hunting bad students. There are psycho cleaners in hazmat suits, that are actually robotic drones that work for him. Then there's the unveiling of the conspiracy involving the school, where a select few shady individuals plan to take control on a global scale. Needless to say life endangerment is to be expected at this high school.
  • In a younger version of the trope, The Simpsons Halloween Special Treehouse Of Horror V features "Nightmare Cafeteria", where the staff of Springfield Elementary decides to get rid of trouble makers by sending them to detention, where they are then killed and turned into next week's cafeteria menu. When Bart and Lisa tell their mother, Marge, what's happening, she refuses to help.
    Bart and Lisa: Mom! Mom! You've gotta help! They're cooking kids in the school cafeteria.
    Marge: Listen, kids. You're eight and ten years old now. I can't fight all your battle for you.
    Bart and Lisa: But Mom...
    Marge: No buts. You march right back to that school, look them straight in the eye and say "Please, don't eat me."
  • Strange Hill High is a Weirdness Magnet and all sorts of monster and baddies have shown up to harass and terrorize the students. The main cast find themselves having to constantly foil the Monster of the Week while trying to stay alive.
Community Feedback Replies: 30
  • January 3, 2018
    AgProv
    Literature

    • In the Discworld, there is the assassins' Guild School, where promising young people are taught how to kill other people for lots of money. It is said that the Assassins beleive in competetive examination and mark on the basis of coursework - the number of graduates who leave the school, or at least leave standing up, is always a lot less than the number who enter it at the other end.
  • January 3, 2018
    AndreaTx
    ^I think that falls more under Academy Of Evil where student deaths are part of the curriculum. This trope is more students shouldn't be dying but they are but Weirdness Censor keeps people from being alarmed about it.
  • January 4, 2018
    Arivne
    • Examples section
      • Added a line separating the Description and Examples section.
      • Put the titles of long works in italics instead of quotes as per How To Write An Example - Emphasis For Work Names.
      • Blue Linked some TV Tropes page names.
      • Corrected punctuation (added and deleted commas).
  • January 4, 2018
    darkchiefy
    i am not sure diploma mill is the right term for this. Diploma Mills are usually referred to institutions that either claim to be higher education but generally give out degrees for money or an education institution with low admission requirements. This seems to be more about student mortality rates rather than the quality of the education itself.
  • January 4, 2018
    MetaFour
    ^ I was about to say the same thing, myself.
  • January 4, 2018
    Malady
    ^ Agreed. Deadly School, or something? Clarity over Alliteration. Importance of Clear Concise Witty, in that order.
  • January 4, 2018
    AndreaTx
    I agree. I didn't think it was the best name, but it was all I could come up with. Totally open to suggestions. Deadly School is cool. Or maybe School Means Death? I dunno.
  • January 4, 2018
    bitemytail
    Does Deadly Graduation already cover this?
  • January 4, 2018
    AndreaTx
    I looked at Deadly Graduation and it seemed to be that the graduation requirement was murdering a fellow student which I think is different from a school with a built in Weirdness Magnet having a high mortality rate.
  • January 4, 2018
    Malady
    I think the title could clearer as School Is Death, but the format is witty and concise, so that's nice.

    Death not Murder 'cause they don't have to be murdered?
  • January 4, 2018
    AndreaTx
    ^ Well, the current examples we have are all about murder, but if we get more examples where kids dies suspiciously but it's not murder, we can change it.
  • January 5, 2018
    LondonKdS
    In Class 2016, it's stated that Coal Hill Academy (which has a long previous history in the Doctor Who franchise) has an unusually high death rate.
  • January 5, 2018
    AndreaTx
    ^I don't watch this show so could clarify the reason why the death rate is so high so that the example will have context?
  • January 5, 2018
    Malady
    ^ IIRC, frequent alien attacks.
  • January 5, 2018
    Snowy66
    • Dangan Ronpa, has this premise, where a group of students are always forced to partake in a "death game" and must graduate/win through getting away with murdering another student. This is especially the case for the first game which occurs in an actual high school.
  • January 5, 2018
    AndreaTx
    ^ That one is definitely Deadly Graduation, but thanks!
  • January 5, 2018
    Snowy66
    ^I had a look at that trope, I think I should elaborate. It's usually a normal school with normal classes, however a villain brought a select group of students into his death game for personal amusement. There's no training or coming of age, it's just a sadistic game of life and death.
  • January 5, 2018
    Malady
    The apostrophe and end quotation mark need to be changed to a more general Unicode one? Check your keyboard settings or page encoding?
  • January 5, 2018
    AndreaTx
    Snowy 66, you mean he picked random students from the student body and forced them into a murderous game and the only way to survive is to murder someone else? Does this happen routinely or is it a specific one time plot? Who is aware of this? Just the participants and the Big Bad or do students know they're at risk? How do the adults at the school respond? Sorry for all the questions, but I don't have any context for the show.

    Malady, to whom are you referring?
  • January 5, 2018
    Snowy66
    ^The villain is a animatronic bear named Monokuma who has tendency of showing up in locations to play his death game. Some installments occur at a high school called Hope's Peak Academy. I'm not sure if it 'happens regularly' at the school, but it doesn't appear the school was originally designed for such a purpose. The player and NPC students are trapped in the school by Monokuma, I don't think any other characters are there. In the first installment the player character was 'selected' to join the academy by invite. They must play the death game or face execution, in which one student must murder another student and get away with it. The other students must figure out who the murderer is. If the murderer is discovered s/he will be executed and everyone else can leave, but if the murderer is undiscovered then they can leave while everyone else gets executed.

    Also it's not really a show, more a video game series.
  • January 5, 2018
    AndreaTx
    ^LOL. You had me at animatronic bear. Ok. I summarized your example and added it. WDYT?
  • January 5, 2018
    Snowy66
    ^Looks cool, thanks.

    EDIT: Just about the last bit. I honestly have no idea with word spreading or if it's an ongoing thing. But I think that can stay for now.
  • January 5, 2018
    Snowy66
    Here's some more examples I thought of.

    • In Detentionaire, A. Nigma High appears to be an ordinary school at first glance, but as the series progresses it's anything but normal. For one the school is run by a cyborg principal who's a former army general and Drill Sergeant Nasty, constantly hunting bad students. There are psycho cleaners in hazmat suits, that are actually robotic drones that work for him. Then there's the unveiling of the conspiracy involving the school, where a select few shady individuals plan to take control on a global scale. Needless to say life endangerment is to be expected at this high school.

    • Strange Hill High is a Weirdness Magnet and all sorts of monster and baddies have shown up to harass and terrorize the students. The main cast find themselves having to constantly foil the Monster Of The Week while trying to stay alive.
  • January 6, 2018
    AndreaTx
    okay. I figured out the unicode thing. Sorry.
  • January 9, 2018
    Snowy66
    • Shut Up Cartoons series Oishi High School Battle, has Oishi Kawaii, a demon slayer from outerspace attending an Earth high school. However all of the demonic threats she fights have followed her over. As a result, student and staff deaths are pretty much a daily occurence, to the point where the school principal gets annoyed rather than horrified when notified of casualties.
  • January 9, 2018
    Exxolon
    Depending on the player's actions, the school in Yandere Simulator could become one of these.
  • January 9, 2018
    AndreaTx
    ^What does the player have to do to create this situation?
  • January 9, 2018
    Exxolon
    ^The game, when complete, will revolve around eliminating ten romantic rivals for "Senpai", the object of the titular Yandere you play as' desire. Elimination methods will include anything from the relatively benign (matchmaking your rival with another boy instead) through more devious means (framing them for cheating on a test and getting them expelled), through to vicious actions (driving them to suicide) up to murdering them outright. If students start disappearing, bodies turn up or clear evidence of a murderous serial killer is on the loose is found ,the schools "atmosphere" level drops making students apprehensive, frightened and extremely vigilant.
  • January 9, 2018
    AndreaTx
    Is there any penalty for low school atmosphere?
  • January 9, 2018
    Exxolon
    Yes - it's much harder to get away with suspicious behaviour and much easier to get a game over. In the creator's own words - "Getting away with murder should not be easy, but it should be fun".
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