"The most 'worldly' society I have ever lived in is that of schoolboys: most worldly in the cruelty and arrogance of the strong, the toadyism and mutual treachery of the weak, and the unqualified snobbery of both. Nothing was so base that the school proletariat would not do it, or suffer it, to win the favour of the school aristocracy: hardly any injustice too bad for the aristocracy to practice."Not to be confused with your usual Boarding School trope, the Boarding School of Horrors is a place where your nightmares come true. There are no midnight feasts or jolly hockey sticks here. Presided over by cane-wielding Sadist Teachers, you will be beaten or locked up for the slightest misdemeanor — and that's if you're lucky. If summoned to the headmaster's office, don't expect to come out in one piece, if at all. Then there is the matter of your fellow students. At best, you'll have your head flushed down the toilet; at worst, you face years of unspeakable bullying. In a British school, you may be enslaved to the prefects thanks to the "fagging" system. And the Absurdly Powerful Student Council will only add to complications as they promote this form of cruelty as presumably girls or guys they like are sent to be lowly concubines within their ranks and is above the law with the Prefect acting as their muscle as they choose whom to beat up or torture. The food is inedible slop, there is no central heating, and creepy-crawlies are everywhere. If you complain or write home to your parents, they won't believe you (assuming your mail even makes it out of the school, that is — it's not uncommon for such schools to actively screen their students' outgoing mail). The school might be a Military School, where you'll face the wrath of Drill Sergeant Nasty every day, and be subjected to horrific hazing rituals. In the worst cases you could be sexually abused or even murdered while staying there. And God help if the school actually is a Reform School - an institution for juvenile offenders. Such institutions are basically prisons with schoolrooms. Had (has?) some elements of truth in television. Boarding schools were not a Victorian innovation, but the institution was embraced as a means of counteracting the softening, emasculating influence of mothers and preparing young men for the harsh rigours of the world of business and Empire. The move to purposefully harsh institutions as a solution to parental mollycoddling took place in the context of the early-mid Victorian love of childhood and doting parenthood, which it was later feared would render the new generation of the better sort of people - i.e. the middle and upper classes - too soft to maintain Anglo supremacy. Thus, boarding schools were intended to break the attendants to prevent them from becoming 'soft' and/or homosexual.note More specifically they would instill discipline and self-discipline, deference to authority, strict morals, a vague sense of the Christian religion, and teamwork. This was, of course, in addition to all the usual things one expects a public school (a school open to the paying public as opposed to a private school, which was more exclusive) to do. For real life examples, see also the section in the Strawman U page for "St. Jim Jonestown Academy." The overtly strict atmosphere of the boarding schools produced a proverb When a lower class kid turns bad, he is sent to a borstal; when an upper class kid turns bad, he is sent to a boarding school. Some boarding schools hardly differed from reform schools (borstals) except on curriculum. Also there is some truth in television with the system of boarding schools set up in The United States, Canada, Australia for the children of the native peoples' from the late 19th century and well into the second half of the 20th century. The agencies in charge of these schools forced parents to turn over their children as wards of the government and sent them, often hundreds of miles, away from their families and communities. These institutions did provide a quality western-style education, at the expense of forcing these children to accept that their traditional customs and languages are primitive and evil, and often enforced these rules with physical punishments. Once they graduated and were deemed "civilized," they didn't fit in with their communities because of the mental conditioning they went through, and couldn't fit in with society at large because they were seen not as human beings, but more as "savages" that could act "civilized." You are likely to find yourself in one of these places if sent Off to Boarding School by the Card-Carrying Villain, often doubling as a Dustbin School, School for Scheming or Academy of Evil. Still, count yourself lucky; at least you're not in an Orphanage of Fear and don't have to deal with an Evil Orphanage Lady. If you're unlucky, your summer is only apt to be marginally better - but see Summer Campy for that. In the best cases, expect it to overlap with Tough Love. A subcategory of this is the Day School of Horrors: same sort of thing, but the kids get to go home at the end of each day; The more common types of this variant tend to be schools run by religious organizations, Catholic schools especially. Not to be confused with an All-Ghouls School, where the pupils and teachers are stereotypical "horror" entities, but are usually quite pleasant. A Sucky School is a downplayed version; it's unlikely to threaten your life, but it is going to give you a terrible experience in other ways.
— C. S. Lewis, On Stories and Other Essays
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Anime and Manga
- Alice Academy has the title school, which seems to involve children being abused horribly, sent on dangerous missions and forbidden to contact their families.
- While most of the students and teachers of the Youkai Academy in Rosario + Vampire are not terribly evil, there is an Absurdly Powerful Student Council who devolved into Knight Templar Yakuza over the years, a few Sadist Teachers (including Medusa), and all the students (save one) are shape-shifting demons and if any of them reveal their true forms they're threatened with "permanent expulsion", although this is not followed through on. (This is also a somewhat ironic inversion of the trope, in that the school was designed to be softer and more civilized than most students' home lives, and exists as much in the hope of developing empathy as for political purposes.)
- Resident Evil: The Marhawa Desire: Even before the outbreak, Marhawa Academy is not the nicest school to attend. The first chapter's title of the first volume, "Academy of Tragedy", should tell you something about it. To the rest of the world Marhawa Academy is a wonderful place, and headmistress Gracia spends much of the manga trying to keep it that way.
- Shitsurakuen's Utopia Academy, and specially for the girls, the guys have it easier as they can treat the girls any way they want.
- The hentai Shusaku is about a janitor who blackmails and fornicates with the students of an all-girl boarding school for gifted musicians.
- Sunday Without God has Goran Academy in the third arc. Children with special abilities are kidnapped by the staff and aren't allowed to leave, and the trigger-happy headmistress prefers to use her revolver to keep the students in line.
- Umineko: When They Cry: Ange's time at St. Lucia Academy was made pretty miserable because she had no friends and she was often bullied mercilessly by her classmates. The teachers never were around to put a stop to it either. It got so bad that she ordered the Seven Sisters of Purgatory to kill her classmates. And when they couldn't (because they could only do it when Ange herself was willing to do it with her own hands), she denied their existence and got them killed.
- In the adult comic Viz, the character "Spoilt Bastard" briefly attended one.
- The Sandman featured a school like this in a side story in Season of Mists. It was quite a normal Boarding School in modern days, but since Hell had just been emptied and the dead came back to Earth during holidays when there was just one living boy present with a skeleton staff because he couldn't go to his absent father, all the people who died in relation to the place somehow returned there and made it into a Boarding School of Horrors. The devil-worshiping bullies had attended the place just before World War I, at the time when the place had apparently fit the trope.
- Greytowers School in the British comic The Dandy, attended by popular character Winker Watson.
- In Hollow Fields, the titular school features steam-powered Sadist Teachers, a patchwork security guard, a variety of alarming classes, and once a week the student with the lowest grades is sent to detention... permanently.
- The Dreaming's Greenwich Private College barely makes it into this trope. While the teachers, though strict, are not sadistic, and the students are friendly, you run the risk of being snatched by a Quinkan whenever you go to sleep.
- Was a staple of the comic strips in old-style British magazines for young teenage girls, like Bunty, Jackie and Pony School.
- The St. Trinian's public school for girls, as illustrated by Ronald Searle's wonderful comics.
- A 3-issue story arc in Excalibur had Kitty Pryde attend one of these, complete with being specifically targeted by the popular girls, when the rest of her team had gone missing.
- Diabolik has Morben, that is a mix of this and Orphanage of Fear: its students were either Street Urchins who have been placed in the wrong orphanage or unwanted relatives of powerful families (like Eva Kant, bastard daughter of a member of the powerful Kant family and placed there by her uncle while her father believed her dead), the staff regularly beat up the students for minor infractions or beat them up and closed them in a dark cell for days with little food once every three days, and favourite students of the director Clothilde Luger are free to bully the other students as they wait to be taken in by a rich family. And then there's the REALLY horrible part: at least four kids with a huge inheritance were duped into giving their money to the director and then murdered, with a fifth noticing in time what was happening and running away and replaced by a lookalike who signed off the money and was murdered. As one of the victims of the very bad part (actually the one who successfully escaped) was Eva's only friend during her stay there, miss Luger was tracked down and slain as soon as Eva found out about it.
- The Batman storyline Gothic reveals that Bruce Wayne spent time in one of these as a child (a British-style school in the US), while he's investigating several murders targeting Gotham's crime bosses. He had simply chalked up some of the more horrific memories of the place as a child's imagination, especially the monstrous, abusive headmaster (who seemingly didn't cast a shadow) and the brutal death of one of his school friends. Even without the headmaster, the school was a bad place even for this trope, as the prefects were psychotic bullies and the teachers sexually harassed their students. It finally reaches its climax when Batman discovers that not only are the killer, Mr. Whisper, and his old headmaster the same person, he's actually a centuries-old former monk who sold his soul to the devil to avoid dying from the plague in 17th-century Vienna, and has spent the years since working on a way to keep the Devil from claiming his soul. Among other things, he's been serial murdering children for years to fuel his magic, Bruce's friend being one of his victims.
- The first issue of The Invisibles has a Borstal of Horrors run by malevolent extra-dimensional entities who are consuming the mental independence and imagination of the inmates.
- In Violine, of the day school variety, and it does not last very long before Violine causes mayhem and flees the school.
- In Doctor Who (Titan) 12th Doctor Year 2, the Doctor and Clara investigate Ravenscaur, a gothic castle on a remote Scottish island with absurdly strict rules ("no smiling policy") and a horrible caste system among the kids. It turns out it's all a front for the Sea Devils.
- Violet Paige (AKA Mother Panic) spent a decade in one of these, a school called Gather House located on the outskirts of Gotham City. Once she begins operating as a vigilante, many of her initial targets are associated with the school.
- Played for Laughs in the Official Fanfiction University metaseries. Being taken to a school where the teachers are all your favourite book or movie characters sounds like fun until you realise that they have seen the fanfic you write about them. And they are not flattered.
- Lily Potter attends one in the Harry Potter fanfic "Petal In The Rain" by pratty-prongs-princesse.
- In the Discworld fic The Graduation Class, a younger Miss Alice Band revisits her own schooldays at the Quirm Academy for Young Ladies, far less fondly than Sybil Ramkin does. To Alice, schooldays became purgatorial, following an all-too-brief visit to Paradise. Miss Butts and Miss Delcross are seen far less sympathetically and come out as somewhat hypocriticalnote , in that Alice is punished both by the School and her own father for breaking one of the most fundamental rules in any single-sex boarding school. Her latter years there are Hell at the hands of both unkind peers and head-teachers who are closely watching her for any further infractions. This colours her later career as a boarding-school teacher at the Assassins' Guild School, where she resolves never to punish any of her girls for the same "crime" and to protect and guide them if she can. (See Literature: The Historical Illuminatus, below.)
- In the webcomic Kill la Kill AU, we have Honnouji Academy and it is this, along with being The Dreaded, or so it is rumored to be. According to Nui, it's like a prison and those that go in are never allowed out and the only way out is in a body bag. When she finds out Ryuko was to be sent there so she could still go the same school with her and Satsuki, she was furious.
Nui: "Remedial School" my ass, more like "Slaughterhouse School", 'cause everyone that goes there may as well be going there to die.
- In Soul Eater: Troubled Souls, this is the type of school Ox attended before the Academy and met Harvar here. It was called Washington Boarding School. If a student receives A’s, then they are golden. If not, well, this is where the nasty stuff comes in. Sadist Teachers abound and an Absurdly Powerful Student Council is brought in to do something to students who make a B or lower on exams. Corporal Punishment and harsh lectures only scrape the surface. It is heavily implied worst punishments can be and have been inflicted. All this to ensure that their students are conditioned to make perfect markings, believing smarts are the most powerful tool ever.
- Big Human On Campus exaggerates Youkai Academy's tendency towards this for comic effect. All the authority figures (except for Fran and Ms. Nekonome) are apathetic to students' suffering at best and cheerfully homicidal at worst. The school is terrorized by the Protection Committee, and most of the normal students fall into Blue and Orange Morality if they're not outright evil, and everyone tends to take a very casual view towards violence.
- Lindsay Anderson's 1968 If... was Malcolm McDowell's breakthrough role and embodies this trope.
- Dead Poets Society: OK, no Wackford Squeers, but we do have an authoritarian headmaster who beats free-thinking students and a school board who squashes creative kids and teachers beneath "the way things are done here." The fact that most, if not all, of the parents are wealthy in some way and support the school's view doesn't help much, either.
- Child's Play 3 has the boy from the first two movies in a military school, showcasing how brutal such schools can be in real life. Several Drill Sergeant Nasty types come to a sticky end at the hands of Chucky: "Don't fuck with the Chuck!"
- The first parts of Pink Floyd's The Wall featured the main character Pink as a child at a non-boarding School of Horrors, complete with Sadist Teacher, uniforms, single file marching... and children being turned into obedient putty-faced zombies and then mindlessly walking over a platform and toppling into a giant meat grinder.
- Scum offers an example of this trope, though in fact it is set in a borstal (what we would now call a young offenders' institute), so the less-than-pleasant nature of it is understandable...if not in any way justified, since some pretty horrific stuff happens. The film (and the play it was based on) were an Author Tract against the institution of borstal, and the details are not inaccurate.
- St. Trinian's, 2007 and 2009 versions, is an all-girl boarding school where the only rule is anarchy. Although it is presented in a pleasant way past the first 10 minutes, it is no wonder the Minister for Education wants it closed. Among the mischief shown on screen: a girl is dragged after a tractor by a fellow student, another is dropped in a staircase head first, a third one is broadcast live on YouTube while running naked in the corridors, the teachers are drunk, the first years play with dynamite and the students make and sell vodka in their science lab.
- Even the original St. Trinian films and the Ronald Searle cartoons were like this, 1950s style.
- The small all-girls school in The Woods doesn't seem very horrifying at first (just rather isolated) save for one bully, but soon you notice how unnaturally pleasant the teachers are, then your friends start to disappear, and then you start coughing up leaves and twigs...
- Satan's School for Girls. Just look at the title!
- The Italian horror film Suspiria, which has a dance academy run by a coven of truly evil witches.
- Combined with Orphanage of Fear in The Devil's Backbone.
- Werewolf in a Girl's Dormitory. Although he never gets into the dorm itself.
- The School in Unman, Wittering and Zigo
- A variation of this appears in Disturbing Behavior, where it's done with a town. Parents move to Cradle Bay with their troubled teens so that they will be "made" into model students and citizens.
- The Korean Horror Movie Destination Hell takes place in one of these.
- The Korean drama The Crucible was actually based on the true story of a sex abuse scandal at a school for the hearing-impaired, which was suffered by both resident and non-resident students.
- In The Imitation Game, we see flashbacks of how the introvert and mildly autistic hero was bullied by his classmates in boarding school.
- In Rhymes For Young Ghouls, the residential school for First Nations peoples is horrific, complete with beatings, solitary confinement, and implied molestation.
- Older Than Radio: Lowood School in Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre, though the conditions improve after the big typhoid outbreak: the filthy cook is fired, Brocklehurst is edged out of his post and donors put up a new building. It overlaps a little with the Orphanage of Fear, since the pupils have all lost at least one parent. note
- While, at the outset, Hailsham from the novel Never Let Me Go seems to be a great, loving place to grow up. That is, until you find out that the place is really a maturing ground for cloned children, who will eventually have all their organs harvested and die very young.
- You also find out that Hailsham is actually quite nice compared to the schools run by people who approve of the whole scheme instead of reformers who settled for giving the clones normal(ish) childhoods when they realized that they couldn't convince the public to scrap the project.
- Robert Cormier's The Chocolate War is set in a Catholic one.
- Dotheboys Hall in Charles Dickens' Nicholas Nickleby. The villainous Wackford Squeers is said to be based on a real headmaster, who was so cruel that he blinded some of his pupils.
- It was reported that Dickens had created a minor backlash against Boarding Schools and a demand for quality assurance from his readers because of that gruesome description.
- Squeers was based on a man named William Shaw, headmaster of the Bowes Academy in northern England. Dickens made no effort to disguise this; the novel ruined Shaw and led to the closure of Bowes. However, there is quite a bit of evidence to suggest that Dickens unfairly maligned Shaw — the incident with the blinded boys, for example, has been attributed by some historians to an illness which arrived in the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars, and Shaw is recorded as having employed an eye specialist (at great expense) to try and cure them. Whatever the truth about him, quite a few people weren't happy with Dickens' treatment of him and apparently installed a window to him in the local church after his death.
- David's boarding school in David Copperfield. Had it not been for people like Steerforth, Mr. Bell or Tommy Traddles, it would've been even worse. And it was pretty bad, thanks to Mr. Creakle.
- A Christmas Carol rounds out the Charles Dickens hat-trick: Ebenezer Scrooge spent his childhood years at one. Uniquely, A Christmas Carol's horror is on a more abstract, intellectual level: at Scrooge's school, his teachers strove to pound out any and all glimmers of imagination and fantasy and replace them with cold, hard, facts. (This is also in Dickens' Hard Times). Said teachers are not presented as out-and-out villains (indeed, we never see them as characters in their own right), but as practitioners of then-accepted teaching standards. The Ghost of Christmas Past effectively punctures Scrooge's Nostalgia Filter over his school days and forces him to confront what it really did.
- The Stjärnberg boarding school in the Swedish novel Ondskan by journalist and action-novel author Jan Guillou, recently turned into a film. It was based on Mr Guillou's own boarding school experience in the 1950s. When he became a journalist in the 1960's, he managed to shut down that school by exposing its horrors to the general public.
- Funny story, he actually decided to become a journalist because it turned out to be the most effective way to shut down the school. Then he spent twenty years practicing his writing in journalism and in lesser novels like the Carl Hamilton series before he felt confident enough to write the book. We might call that dedication.
- The school in Mercedes Lackey's Brightly Burning isn't a boarding school, but otherwise matches this trope. An elite group of "sixth form" students can get away with anything, including severely beating a younger boy for not stealing on their behalf. At least until they manage to cause a Traumatic Superpower Awakening to the lead character (the one who would go on to be called Lavan Firestorm) and got most of themselves killed. The incident was so big that it got the King himself aware of things. Considering what Valdemar is built on (it's what America is supposed to be at heart, enforced thanks to the Companions) no one is pleased at all and a very swift and permanent reform is forced on the school, with plenty of people and rich families who knew what was really going on punished as well.
- Jill's and Eustace's school, Experiment House, in C. S. Lewis' The Silver Chair. Rather than the "abusively strict and draconian" type, however, Experiment House is the less-common variant of the trope in which the trouble is the complete lack of discipline; its faculty, fancying themselves modern and progressive, allow bullies to run wild, creating a hellish environment for the rest of the students like Jill and Eustace.
- Also, either Experiment House or another Boarding School of Horrors is also implied to have contributed to Edmund's mean and resentful behavior in the first book; upon his recovery, Lucy observes that he looks better than he has "since his first term at that horrid school which was where he had begun to go wrong."
- George Orwell's essay "Such, Such Were the Joys" is about his experiences in such a school.
- In the Real Life, the teachers of the school considered young Eric Blair as one of the truly rising stars in achievement and predicted him a bright future in the literature.
- And C. S. Lewis in Surprised by Joy talks candidly about his days at Malvern College where the fagging system was in full play — as an underclassman he was worked to exhaustion — and nearly all the boys were either "Tarts" or "Bloods". (So much for the theory that these schools would prevent homosexuality.) He refuses to condemn the rampant pederasty saying that the authorities condoned much worse crimes.
- The Fools' Guild School. A thoroughly miserable place where students sleep on hard pallets, are woken at the crack of dawn, and spend hours memorizing ancient jokes that simply aren't funny and being drilled in slapstick routines that are even less so. The irony is amped up by it being next door to the Assassins' Guild, which is a much more cheerful place and lets the students go outside.
- The downside of the Assassins' Guild is that the number of students tends to be considerably smaller at the end of the year than it was at the beginning due to the student rivalries and the Guild's firm belief in competitive graduation exams.
- Jingo features 71-Hour-Ahmed, a warrior and Cowboy Cop from Klatch who attended the Assassin's Guild school. He notes that after seven years of an Ankh-Morpork public school, "patronized by the sons of gentlemen", life among the most feared warrior tribe in Klatch is an absolute picnic.
- Discworld also has Hugglestones, a boarding school for the sons of the very rich designed to turn boys into men... apparently by making them play a lot of violent full-contact sports and only allowing those who survive (either by brute force or just being smart enough to avoid the scrum while still acting like they're involved in the action) to graduate; William de Worde from The Truth is an example of the latter sort of student. Hugglestones is also described as physically resembling a maximum-security prison, with the difference that prison inmates get better treatment. In Mrs Bradshaw's Handbook, Mrs Bradshaw watches the boys getting on the train at the end of term; some in wheelchairs, some on stretchers, and two in coffins.
- Monstrous Regiment has the Girl's Working School, which cranks this up to Room 101 levels. Three of the main characters were in it at some point, and it shows in different ways. (Unlike most Boarding Schools of Horrors, it's for poor girls; it's something between an Orphanage of Fear and a Magdalene laundry). Lt Blouse went to a less extreme version - he's perfectly happy to eat scubbo (soup made of boiled water and anything remotely edible) with the men, as it's what he got at school. Jackrum later quips that "He went to a school for young gentlemen, so prison will be just like old times."
- J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter series has a number of examples.
- Most prominently, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Adventurous though it may be, it has a rampant, unchecked bullying problem that has been ongoing for at least half a century (Harry's father was a bully himself, while Harry and later, Harry's son were both victims of it). Dumbledore knowingly hired two different teachers he knew for a fact were incapable of doing the job he hired them to do, while two other staff members display, at the best of times, undisguised disdain for students. The Big Bad himself went there half a century ago and arranged a lot of "nasty incidents", including the murder of another student (who still hangs around as a ghost). It gets, if possible, worse during the brief tenures of Dolores Umbridge in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and the Carrow siblings in Deathly Hallows as temporary Headmasters of the school.
- Another example is Durmstrang Institute, first mentioned in Goblet of Fire, which is one of the premier wizarding schools of Europe. We never actually see Durmstrang, but there's tell that the faculty and students are cruel and that it involves setting people on fire. It also doesn't help that their headmaster, Igor Karkaroff, was one of Voldemort's minions before the events of the series or that it was the school where Gellert Grindelwald (who is the wizarding world's version of Hitler) attended as a student before he was expelled for "twisted experiments".
- The uniform of Smeltings Academy, the all-boys Muggle school Dudley goes to and that Uncle Vernon attended in his youth, includes a gnarled stick for the students to hit each other with when the teachers are not looking. This is supposedly a great help in preparing the students for the future.
- The Oakhurst foundation from the Shadow Grail series takes Hogwarts and carefully removes everything fun and most of the sheer good fortune that kept the school from having a running body count every year. In fact, in the first book, the main characters go through some old records and realize that one student dies, disappears, or goes insane roughly once every six weeks. The casualty rate starts going up in the following books.
- The Prufrock Preparatory school in The Austere Academy, Book The Fifth of A Series of Unfortunate Events. The buildings are even shaped like gravestones. The school is run by Vice Principal Nero. When the Baudelaire siblings first arrive he informs them about the fine dormitories they have, but that unless students have parental permission, they must sleep on hay in a tin shack (known as the Orphan's Shack). He considers himself to be a genius and thinks that he plays the violin well, but in fact he is unworthy, stupid, mean, arrogant, obnoxious, annoying, and cannot play the violin well at all. Nonetheless, students must attend his lengthy violin recitals every day, or else they must buy him a large bag of candy and watch him eat it. The Baudelaires are forced to live in the Orphans' Shack which is infested with crabs, fungus drips from the ceiling, and the tin walls are covered in horrible wallpaper (green with pink hearts). They are also regularly bullied by a rude, violent girl named Carmelita Spats and Sunny (a baby) is made to be a secretary for Nero. There's also a rule that if students are late to class (or Sunny is late to work) their hands will be tied behind their backs during meals and they'll have to "lean down at eat their food like a dog". Sunny has her silverware taken away because she must work in the administrative building where students are not allowed. Also if students are late to meals (which are not at specified times) their glasses are taken away and beverages are served in large puddles on the trays.
- The school motto: MEMENTO MORI (Remember You Will Die). It can also be translated as "Remember Your Mortality" which also indicates, that you aren't anything more than a human. Which means, that if you are a troublemaker (or if the teachers see you as one) you can — and will — be broken down, by any gruesome means possible.
- St Custards in the molesworth books, and St. Trinian's, both drawn by cartoonist Ronald Searle.
- In the Inspector Linley detective novel Well Schooled In Murder, a murder is covered up by the staff and all 600 pupils of a Boarding School of Horrors.
- Happens in a Goosebumps short story, "The Perfect School"
- The school that Alex Rider attends in Point Blanc. The school appears awesome, it's just that the other students are all Stepford Smilers. The real students are held underground while the clones of the Big Bad study them in order to imitate them properly
- The Afrikaaner boarding school in The Power of One fits this trope, though Peekay's experience is worse than most because he's English.
- The horribly built school in The War Between The Pitiful Teachers And The Splendid Kids is not only a dumping ground for "bad" students (the main POV character is actually very intelligent but infuriated his teacher by making up words ("inkwart- that blister that develops when you write too many stupid English assignments") and sticking to them; another is a very smart Cloud Cuckoo Lander; another was raised by hyenas) but also for bad teachers like the self-absorbed art teacher who jousted as The Rococo Knight.
- Crunchem Hall in Roald Dahl's Matilda fits the trope to a T, despite being a day school. The headmistress delights in, among other things, locking students in an iron maiden-style closet full of broken glass and nails, forcing students to eat chocolate cake until they either vomit or explode, and picking students up by their hair and hammer-throwing them across the school grounds.
- Similarly, Roald Dahl wrote about his horrific experiences at a boarding school in his first autobiographical book, Boy: Tales of Childhood.
- In Lois Duncan's Down a Dark Hall, the headmistress is forcing her trapped students to channel the ghosts of dead geniuses...which causes enough mental damage to drive them to insanity or suicide.
- The school in Cinda Williams Chima's The Wizard Heir is mainly a way for its wizard headmaster to locate young wizards to bind to him; the non-magical students are tormented — and sometimes killed — by the others, and when the protagonist refuses to go along, he's subjected to months of constant mental torture.
- In Otherland, Felix Jongleur, evil mastermind of the Grail Brotherhood, grew up in the World War I era and was sent to Cranleigh, a British boarding school that he remembers as a place of abject misery and torture, not the least of which because he is French. Even nearly two hundred years later (yes, he is that old), these memories give him Bad Dreams. Interestingly, they also cause him to pick Paul Jonas as his Opposite-Sex Clone "daughter's" tutor, because he went to the same school, and this forms a minor plot point late in the story.
- The 19th century Austro-Hungarian military academy portrayed in The Confusions of Young Törless is one of these. While we never see much of the rest of the student body, the plot centers on the sadistic torment of one of its students, observed dispassionately by the title character.
- Ella Enchanted: Ella attends one which she eventually escapes. It wouldn't have been so bad if it weren't for Hattie ordering her about and the punishment of meals being taken away if you talked back to a teacher.
- Coates Academy from Gone might count. It starts out as a boarding school for "difficult" kids, which translates into sadists, sociopaths, juvenile delinquents, bullies, and a few decent kids who talked back too often, or whose parents just wanted to get rid of them. It is described as a cold, foreboding place where the bullies rule. Then, things only get worse (for the few decent kids) after some of the kids develop super powers, the adults all vanish, and the bullies really rule. Eventually, it gets to be unbearable for every character except Drake.
- Drearcliff Grange in Kim Newman's The Secrets of Drearcliff Grange School combines this with Superhero School for a Deconstruction of Girls' School stories such as The Silent Three. The main character is warned that the prefects can punish her for having a red mark on her face by slapping her (and can continue to do so as long as she continues to have red marks on her face), and will already have ritually burnt the doll in her luggage at the stake (as it turns out they haven't, they're waiting to torture it in front of her). But then that gets deconstructed, when we're told that after three weeks she no longer sees the school as either good or bad; it's simply how things are.
- In Red Planet, the main characters are sent to a dispassionately oppressive boarding school where the headmaster attempts to steal the hero's (sentient) pet and the heroes discover a plot against the colony.
- In Morton Rhue's Boot Camp, the boot camp "Harmony Lake" is this, its methods a mix between Nineteen Eighty-Four (on the instructors' part) and the Experiment House from The Silver Chair (on the bullies' part)... and things still manage to go From Bad to Worse in the end. Given that it was based on Tranquility Bay, a "Teen Treatment" facility in Jamaica for troubled American teens that was infamous for the horrendous treatment of the kids sent there and the deaths that occurred, it's understandable.
- In Robert Anton Wilson's The Historical Illuminatus II - The Widow's Son, Edward Babcock lives through Hell at Eton when the School launches a witch-hunt to find and detect actively gay pupils. Wilson describes a Gestapo-like interrogation of all pupils who are called, one by one, in front of a panel of teachers and urged to confess to the cardinal and disgusting sin of sodomy, so that they can repent and their souls may be saved before God. Knowing to confess to being gay means expulsion, disgrace, and lifelong ostracism, Babcock bluffs and lies his way out of it, although he is both frightened and intimidated. After the first flush of elation at having successfully lied to his teachers, he is pulled up cold by the appalling realisation his lover is yet to be questioned. As the boys are being called in by alphabetical order, he realises Geoffrey Wildeblood will have a long agonising wait... eventually he realises Geoffrey has fled the school and has killed himself, rather than face shame and disgrace.
- Cackle's Academy in The Worst Witch teeters on being an example. The school is described as cold during the winter and the girls are forced to spend break outdoors even when it's cold. The food is also always served cold (mostly because it takes half an hour to carry up to the Great Hall from the kitchens). And while there is a Sadist Teacher Miss Hardbroom and a few strict others, the headmistress Miss Cackle is good natured and friendly. The school's conditions are all in the name of tradition rather than any desire to be cruel. The TV series does also help make the school a little more welcoming.
- Murderess features a Downplayed version of this trope. The James Centre Boarding School is shabby and grey, the food served in the cafeteria is awful (rumours say that a boy who ate everything he was served for a week died because of it), the teachers are a bit mean and grating (but by no means blatantly sadistic), and the magic-wielding Alpha Bitch Bridget seems to terrorise her fellow student, but all in all, it could be much worse.
- The school Carrie attends in Petals on the Wind.
- TPU in Morganville Vampires is a collegiate example.
- The all-boys wizard academy in Skin Hunger is this. Pupils' clothes are burnt on arrival, they are given rough sackcloth robes instead, and no shoes. They are only given water to drink and wash with, and no food or soap. After a couple of days, a wizard shows them how to make food appear using a magical jewel ... but most of them aren't (yet) able to do this, and the headmaster actively discourages them from helping each other, threatening that they will be killed if they do. It is mentioned that only one of the group will become a wizard and ever see his parents again, the others will ... become part of the school. Which can be interpreted in a multitude of ways. Some of the boys vanish, presumably starved to death.
- The main character attends one of these in The Moth Diaries, full of emotional repression and tension, though pre-story she made it work, finding a best friend to confide in, a group of girls to hang out with, and generally keeping her head down and pushing through. It helps that we get the sense that the school's better than her situation at home. Then the plot kicks off when Ernessa shows up and takes an interest in the main character's best friend, and vaguely supernatural events start happening, and things really go to hell in a handcart.
- This is what happens to Lily Floris in the 1864 novel Quite Alone by George Sala. Initially left at a strict but reasonable boarding school, she later ends up dumped in one of these. The Pension Marcassin is a hellhole that makes Dickens' worst schools look good. Even the best students are ridiculed as completely without merit, the rules are set up so that it is impossible not to break them, punishments are sadistic and the food is ghastly. Lily isn't even a student most of the seven years she spends there; her tuition money runs out and she ends up like Sara Crewe, an indentured servant.
- In Die Alchimistin St. Jacob's Institute for Highborn Ladies is a particularly ghastly version of the trope. At first it doesn't seem so bad: true, all your things are searched and censored when you arrive and the headmistress can give you a harsh beating if you speak against it, but the rest looks like a normal if strict girls' school, and the girls aren't overloaded with work and have enough time to rest and walk in the park. And then the heroine learns that it is a place governed by an ancient alchemist where once in a while he picks girls to sacrifice so that he could retain his immortality.
- The Doctor Who Official Annual 2017 features the short story "Yes, Missy", in which the villainess turns a perfectly nice all-girl boarding school into one temporarily. Going by the name Miss Magister, she takes over Saxon Heights by using hypnosis on the faculty, and from there forces all the girls to dress like her at all times, sends the prefects to London for "something about inspecting the copies of Magna Carta...", and seizes all the girls' smartphones and tablets — ostensibly so they'll stop wasting time "SnapBooking and FaceChatting" but really to assemble a transmitter for summoning a Daemon! UNIT stops her before that happens — and before she kills a girl who was disobedient — but she gets away to scheme another day, of course.
- The Stolen Spring by Hans Scherfig, has a quite straight example, set in a pre-war Danish society. The boys are regularly bullied by the teachers, and they bully back on eachother and on other teachers. No wonder the whole story centers around the pupil who eventually ended up killing the most hated teacher of them all.
- In The Penderwicks, Jeffrey's mother Mrs. Tifton wants to send him to the extremely strict Pencey Military Academy so he can be like his grandfather, a famous general, but Jeffrey wants to be a musician and study at a music conservatory. Even worse, Mrs. Tifton's boyfriend Dexter wants to get rid of Jeffrey by shipping him off to the academy a year early, so he can spend more time with her.
- Played with in Brotherhood of the Rose, by David Morrell. The protagonists aren't mistreated in the orphanage, but they are being groomed as patriotic Cannon Fodder for the US military.
"The way we were raised, I don't think we were ever kids."
- Farringham School for Boys in the Doctor Who adventure "Human Nature", more so in the novel the episodes were based on. And that was before the Doctor turned up, Cosmic Horror-Show in tow. The school was fairly representative of similar British schools at the time.
- Firefly's River Tam went to a School for Scheming version of one of these that was presided over by Mad Scientists. She came out...a bit touched.
- Francis spends the first few seasons of Malcolm in the Middle in military school.
- Poltergeist: The Legacy's tenth episode "The Substitute" was a classic example of this trope.
- Ned from Pushing Daisies gets sent to a school that is not necessarily a Boarding School of Horrors as it is a Boarding School of Abandonment and Gloom For Unloved Children.
- The Graybridge school in "Tomkinson's Schooldays", the pilot episode of Ripping Yarns. At Graybridge, School Bully is actually an official position functioning as a one-man Absurdly Powerful Student Council.
- "I was seventeen miles from Graybridge before I was caught by the school leopard."
- Tower Prep, where kids with special gifts are knocked out and wake up at this school with no explanation, have no idea where they are, a giant wall keeps them from leaving, they are not allowed to contact the outside, and they are forced to act like they are simply normal students.
- Jennie Garth starred in a Lifetime Movie style Without Consent which is about teenage "re-education" facilities. Along with torturing the students in their control, whether they've actually done anything wrong or not, the program ditches a clearly-troubled young man as soon as his parents' insurance runs out of money, claiming that he is now "cured". He kills himself.
- The un-named boarding school in House of Anubis could be considered this. While it is a rather clean and rich school, and students are (usually) well taken care of, it is also a school where the teachers tend to be evil, ancient secrets haunt Anubis House, and it seems to be a hotspot for ancient evil activities, as well as endless dangers the students face daily just to sometimes simply survive. The school WAS only started for the teachers to succeed in their plots of achieving immortality...
- One of the characters in Spring Awakening is sent to such a school.
- Bully takes place in one of these - Bullworth Academy. It starts out miserable and ends up just really sucky. Cliques run the school, classism runs rampant, the prefects are thuggish and violent, and physical violence is the only way to solve your problems. About the only thing it doesn't have is corporal punishment, since the game is set in present day, and physical abuse of the students would lead to a PR nightmare. Not that the resident Sadist Prefects and Dean Bitterman don't have other ways of making you miserable. Unusual for this trope though, quite a few teachers are very nice, most notably the art teacher Miss Philips and the English teacher Mr Galloway.
- According to herself, the 'famous actress' Gloria Van Gouten in Psychonauts went to one of these. Then again, considering how we found out, and Gloria's condition, it may not be true.
- Henry from Fire Emblem Awakening was sent to a magical-based version of these in the English version of the game after he awoke to his powers and killed those who murdered his Only Friend, the local wolf. (The Japanese original only mentions "an institution", likely an Orphanage of Fear). And it didn't do him many favors. (More so in the English version)
- In Knights of the Old Republic and its sequels, the Korriban Sith Academy doesn't just live down to the reputation, it revels in it. Teachers backstabbing one another, students backstabbing one another, recruits sent to the school just to become saber fodder, a student complaining that they've run out of unarmed, starving prisoners for him to kill, and a torture chamber on school grounds. Then again, we are talking about the Sith.
- Our Darker Purpose takes place in what may be the worst boarding school in video game history: a supernatural death-fest mega-prison, where kids are constantly killed/tortured/whatever by intentionally poor-designed school practices, sadistic (and superhuman) school cliques, supernatural occurrences stemming from poorly maintained areas and items, and a general lack of hope from being trapped in a magic prison surrounded by wastelands with no idea of who they are or why they deserve to be here. All while the headmasters laugh and snark at the many deaths of the protagonist. Towards the end it's revealed that the boarding school is one big mental world of a famous (and Joker-like) criminal mastermind, whose psychopathic tendencies originate from his own traumatizing experiences at his orphanage school, the worst of which came from the other kids, with the main character as the worst of the lot; a shy little girl who likes to throw lit matches at shy little boys For the Evulz. The kids in his world represent his cruelty and ingenuity; they are used for his infamous wacky heists and then terminated to prevent them from taking control and driving him insane. Cordy was so important to him that he needed to recreate and kill her (and her two former friends Goneril and Regan) hundreds of times, but once he's injected with Psycho Serum during a battle with his archnemesis, Cordy slowly gains the experience needed to fight back. And she's worse than anything else in the school.
- NoNamed is set in a school described to be this, though at first the rules seem relatively lax in some respects and it looks like an Informed Attribute. It isn't. The school is under the control of an Eldritch Abomination, and what you have to beware of is the other students, who he controls.
- The School of Strange School definitely qualifies. They kidnap children from Earth, outfit them with robot bodies in a factory, then force them to go through school lessons without sleep, and when graduation comes, they're killed off by the Principal.
- Sokolov Academy from Bad Moon Rising more than qualifies for both students and staff. Deformed werewolves lived in the basement, multiple teachers used their positions to sexually abuse their students, children were used as hostages against their parents, and every headmaster the school ever had met a grisly, violent end at the hands of a student.
- Grave Academy's students and protagonists, are all monsters, and all are at least Deuteragonists.
- The protagonist of Red Rover arrives as a new hire at a boarding school, only to find out the hard way that it's the site of massacre and haunted by all sorts of storybook monsters.
- Dorian Sanders from v3 of Survival of the Fittest apparently went to one of these, though so far the only clue about said school is the description of how he was psychologically changed by his time there in his bio.
- In the flash series Xin, the story takes place during a fictional time in America where, in an effort to prevent street gangs and violent delinquent crimes, the punishments of suspension and expulsion have been made illegal in all schools (not just boarding ones). Instead, corporal punishment has been reinstated, and as you may have guessed, it doesn't take long for staff to start abusing these powers. However, due to falling academic standards, along with rigorous school evaluations, a new system needed to be created. This lead to the hierarchy system known as the Pillar System, created by the main antagonist. The Pillar System takes advantage of the existing student hierarchy, and gives a select group of students, called monitors, complete power in setting rules and administering punishment to students. This goes about as well as you'd think. It's made worse by the fact that many main characters (including the top monitors) in the series know some insane superhuman fighting techniques (the series is animesque). You also know a system is bad when you find yourself cheering for the delinquents who are trying to expose and break it.
- Addergoole is a boarding school for faeries who've been raised human. There's mind control built into the walls. Slavery and rape are encouraged. The older kids are geased to not tell the new kids anything until it's too late. A lot of them don't want to warn them anyway. The whole school is a training version of their society.
- The Simpsons: "The Secret War of Lisa Simpson" showcases the military school example. Although that was something of a subversion; the school itself was fairly decent (the principal even seemed a fair and friendly man) and the only abuse we see was focused on Bart and Lisa (later only Lisa), and was based on other students resenting Lisa for being given the good dorm.
- Well, that and the Death Course that's getting retired at the end of the year due to silly things like "students dying". Before they had THAT, the school year used to be finished off with a full-out battle royale between the students. The students here are CHILDREN, most of them not older than 10.
- St. Olga's Reform School for Wayward Princesses in Star vs. the Forces of Evil. Star is in constant fear of her parents sending there if they find out she's done something wrong. The Doom Troops that are sent after runaways suggest its reputation is pretty well-deserved. In the aptly-named episode "St. Olga's Reform School for Wayward Princesses", the place turns out to be just as bad as Star imagined, if not worse. The Headmistress, Miss Heinous, is a cruel taskmistress who makes a fortune breaking down her wards and brainwashing them into being bland, obedient Princess Classic types. Marco brings down the institution, but it's become a Teenage Wasteland.
It's a reform school, cupcake, not jail. Although, admittedly, it is a lot like jail.
- It gets worse when it turns out Miss Heinous was also draining the princesses of their emotions not just to brainwash them, but for wanting their emotions for her own personal use.
- Daria's dad is traumatized by his father sending him to a military boarding camp with dreaded Corporal Ellenbogen and "boys who can smell fear". In fact, his subplot in Is It College Yet is him trying to convince her not to go to military school (which she never wanted to do in the first place).
- Archer attended several boarding schools in his youth, almost all of which were horribly traumatic experiences. He rarely had any friends, he was frequently forgotten there by Mallory, and in one episode, it's revealed he got pnuemonia from being swirlied in a toilet filled with pee.