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Boarding School of Horrors
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.
C. S. Lewis, On Stories and Other Essays

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 alive. 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). 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 at the Boarding School of Horrors.

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 attendents and thus prevent them from becoming 'soft' and/or homosexual. More specifically they would instil 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.

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 School For Scheming or Academy of Evil. Still, count yourself lucky. At least you're not in an Orphanage of Fear. If you're unlucky, your summer is only apt to be marginally better - but see Summer Campy for that.

A sub-trope of this is the Day School of Horrors, of which the most notable exponent was probably the Overly Strict Catholic School (circa 1930-1960). It was bad enough when the nuns could make you stand in a trash can or beat you with a yardstick in front of the class for such minor infractions as improperly polished shoes or sneezing in church, all the while telling you that beating the tar out of your living body was good for your immortal soul. Got turned Up to Eleven when we all found out the extent of sexual assault at the hands of the clergy. In Australia at least this was paralleled in the state-run orphanages, in which the sexual abuse of minors was also depressingly common...

Not to be confused with an All-Ghouls School, which has stereotypical "horror" entities as pupils and teachers but is usually quite a pleasant place to attend.

Examples

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     Anime and Manga  
  • Gakuen Alice has the titular 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.
  • Shitsurakuen's Utopia Academy, and specially for the girls, the guys have it easier as they can treat the girls anyway 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.
  • Umineko no Naku Koro ni: 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.
  • Kami-sama no Inai Nichiyoubi 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.

     Comic Books  
  • 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 pits the Caped Crusader against a mobster and child-killer who long ago made a Deal with the Devil. Batman connects Mr. Whisper with the headmasternote  at his own childhood boarding school

     Fan Fic  
  • 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 Honnuji 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 is out is in a body bag. When she finds out Ryuuko was to be sent there so she could still go the same school with she 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.

    Film 
  • 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 entirely inaccurate.
  • St. Trinian's 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.
  • 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 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.

    Literature 
  • 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 entirely.
  • 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. 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. As an amusing side note, 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.
  • 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.
  • The Fools' Guild School in Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels. 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.
    • 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. It's also described as physically resembling a maximum-security prison, with the difference that prison inmates get better treatment.
    • 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. 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."
  • Hogwarts turns into this in J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, thanks to Umbridge (former trope namer for Tyrant Takes the Helm).
    • It gets mostly better in Half-Blood Prince, then rather a lot worse under the Carrow siblings in Deathly Hallows. As the Power Trio have dropped out to pursue Horcruxes, we mostly only hear about the horrors secondhand.
    • Hogwarts toes the line between this and Academy of Adventure. The Crusty Caretaker likes to reminiscence about the good old days when he could hang troublemakers from the ceiling by their ankles, although he may have just been running his mouth. 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).
    • Another example is (potentially) 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 basically the wizarding world's version of Hitler) attended as a student.
    • Although it is noted Grindelwald was expelled for "twisted experiments".
    • The uniform of Smeltings Academy includes a gnarled stick for the students to hit each other with when the teacher's not looking. This is supposedly a great help in preparing the students for the future.
    • These could be just a case of Truth in Television: in real life, people believe all sorts of stories about their schools' arch-rivals that have no basis in reality whatsoever (and deep down, most of us usually know it).
  • 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 One 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 Diogenes Club story "Kentish Glory: 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 entire colony.
  • In Morton Rhue's Boot Camp, The boot camp "Harmony Lake" is this, its methods a mix between 1984 (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" (see Real Life below), 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.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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."
  • Broken in Zoey 101. The bording school is so perfect it's literally unbelievable.
  • 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 (see Real Life below). 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...

    Radio 

    Tabletop Games 

    Theater 

     Video Games  
  • Bully takes place in one of these. It starts out miserable and ends up just really sucky. Cliques run the school, classism runs rampant, and physical violence is the only way to solve your problems. It ascribes more to the Adults Are Useless end of things, though, so there isn't a Sadist Teacher.
  • 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 American 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 (again in the English translation) it didn't do him many favors.

     Webcomics  
  • 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.

     Web Original  
  • Grave Academy's students and protagonists, are all monsters, and all are at least Deuteragonists.
  • 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 anime-esque). 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.

     Western Animation  
  • 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 entirely 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".
  • 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).

     Real Life  
  • Truth in Television — News reports of child abuse or horrific bullying at boarding schools are not rare.
    • The worst part: for 4/5 of the year the victim is stuck in the same building as their tormenters, longer if they come from overseas. In a lot of boarding houses there is no place to hide, often intentionally. Compare:Prison Rape.
    • To any troper who is experiencing this: be brave, hold fast, get help. You Are Not Alone, you will be believed; things will get better.
  • Reform schools, also known as 'borstals' for UK tropers. All of them - they are basically children's prisons.
  • After attending a real-life version as a youth, Roald Dahl often used the trope in his fiction, including the Matilda example above.
    • At least one of Dahl's horror stories of Repton in Boy has been discredited. He claimed to have witnessed an especially brutal beating of a young pupil at the hands of the headmaster, who later became the Archbishop of Canterbury and presided at Queen Elizabeth's coronation - an eventuality that caused Dahl to question the existence of God. While the beating did occur, Dahl was mistaken as to which headmaster had administered it. More importantly, although the beating WAS brutal, the "victim" was a prefect who had been abusing younger boys.
  • C. S. Lewis didn't exactly have the most comfortable stint in Boarding School. He even said that he preferred serving in World War I because at least in the army nobody was pretending that it was anything besides a living nightmare.
    • His contemporary, Winston Churchill, said, "I am all for the Public Schools but I do not want to go there again."
      • Note: the phrase "public school" in Britain refers to private schools. Their term for what Americans would call a public school is "State school".
  • Piers Anthony's autobiography "Bio Of An Ogre" relates his horrific experiences in Boarding School.
  • Connor "Khonnor" Kirby-Long implies his high school to have been one in the liner notes to Handwriting:
    No portion of this album's profit if any will be given to Saint Johnsbury Academy.
  • Two words: Tranquility Bay. Thankfully it's been closed, but the company that ran it, WWASP a.k.a WWASPS (World Wide Association of Specialty Programs and Schools) runs other schools that have been accused by many of being abusive as well.
    • Speaking of WWASP, here's a story of one of the survivors of the program.
    • This sort of thing was also quite disturbingly glamorised by the British television series Brat Camp.
  • Native American boarding schools. Starting in the 1800s, over 100,000 Native American children were shipped off to Caucasian-run boarding schools where they were force-fed Western culture — Christianity, the English language, Western styles of dress, etc. — and forbidden from practicing their own cultural traditions, speaking their native languages, or even keeping their own names. The founder of one of these godforsaken prisons stated that his objective was to kill the Indian to save the man. This in addition to the Boarding School of Horrors' usual parade of verbal, physical, and sexual abuses. This is why many Native American languages have died out — at these boarding schools, punishments for speaking Native languages ranged from being forced to eat lye soap to having a sewing needle pushed through one's tongue.
    • A portion of Leslie Marmon Silko's Gardens in the Dunes is set in such a school, although the protagonists escape rather quickly.
    • In 2008, Prime Minister Stephen Harper made a formal apology to the residential schools former students for the federal government's part in the residential school system. About time, dude...
    • Similar schools were created for the semi-nomadic Sami-people (the natives of northern Scandinavia and Russia) by the Swedish state during the late 19th and early 20th century.
  • Recently systematic abuse has also been discovered in the Catholic boarding schools in Ireland, as well.
    • This is pretty bad, but it seems to have caused a lot of people to forget about the older scandals that have dogged government and privately run homes for children for decades.
  • Prince Charles has described Gordonstoun School as "Colditz in kilts".
  • Solbacka, which inspired Stjärnsberg in Jan Guillou's novel Ondskan ("The Evil").
    • One of the few surviving Swedish Boarding Schools, Ljungsberg, was closed by the Swedish School Inspection in 2013 after an incident where 2 students were burned with an flat-iron during an hazing ritual. Many parables were drawn with the Infamous Solbacka.
    • The stories were pretty horrific until, in the comments, someone pointed Heartland Homes for Children, an institution where pupils were put in a manure-filled pit, spanked with a phone book-sized paddle or, in an instance, taken off her meds for leukemia because God would save her..
  • There was a CBS News report in the 1970s about a certain boarding school in Japan for boys aged 10-16. Among other things, the teachers routinely swatted the kids' rear with a stick every time they answered a question incorrectly in class. Upon giving a wrong answer, the boy had to promptly walk up to front of the room and bend down. (Yes, they showed them doing this on TV!) They might have even had to bow to the instructor afterwards.
  • The Magdalene Asylums, "institutions" for "fallen women" run by the Magdelene Sisters. Initially, the mission of the asylums was often to rehabilitate women back into society (there were similar ones run by Anglicans in England), but by the early 20th century the homes had become increasingly punitive and prison-like. In most of these asylums, the inmates were required to undertake hard physical labour, including laundry and needle work. They also endured a daily regimen that included long periods of prayer and enforced silence. There have been several songs, films and plays based on the asylums. The last Magdalene Asylum closed in 1993.
    • The really unsettling thing is that they didn't start to go out of use because of public disapproval, but because a rise in household gadgetry — chiefly washing machines — made a laundry service obsolete.
  • Lowood School and Dotheboy's Hall were loosely based on a demographic of schools, often referred to as 'Yorkshire schools' (they probably proliferated there as it was a good distance from London and had a lot of undeveloped countryside) that seem to have mostly existed as a place for the fairly well-to-do to dump kids they had become responsible for against their will (orphaned nieces like Jane Eyre, or step-kids like the two little boys in Nicolas Nickleby). Their adverts were quite recognisable by the words: "NO VACATIONS"- in other words, send the child here and you need never see him or her again until he's at least an adult. And probably not then, as the heads of such schools were aware that they didn't have to spend too much of their revenue on caring for the kids, seeing as they wouldn't be missed much if they died young from malnutrition, neglect or unsanitary living conditions (such as, in one school, a tin bath in the centre of the dormitory to be used as a latrine, which wasn't emptied for months on end)
  • Neurologist and author Oliver Sacks describes his experiences when he was evacuated to one of these as a small child during the London Blitz in his memoir, Uncle Tungsten.
  • There's a saying: "When poor kids are bad, they get sent to Reform School; when rich kids are bad, they get sent to Boarding School."
  • In the late 80s and early 90s, the Family created the Victor Campsnote  for reeducating wayward Second-Generation Membersnote  rebelling against their strict living conditions under which they were required to live; the Macau Victor Camps were the worst.
    Professor Kent says the treatment [in Macau] far exceeded the most restrictive social scientific requirements of brainwashing.
  • An especially nasty one of these is the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center, which was endorsed by the the United States' largest autism charity, Autism Speaks, in November of 2013 during the organization's "Autism Speaks to Washington" event. Autistic people, children, teens, and adults have long been almost unanimous in their resentment of Autism Speaks for focusing on trying to "cure" autism, and the charity's endorsement of the JREC has led a growing number of their non-autistic relatives to renounce their support of the charity. The JREC advertises their services as a "drug-free treatment for autism". Six of their "students" or "patients" have died as a direct result of routine practises at the facility, as ruled by doctors who performed the autopsies. Their techniques are essentially identical to those long promoted as a cure for homosexuality. It is safe to say that this facility has done everything it could to guarantee itself a place on any list of real-life examples of this trope.
  • This article on AlterNet deals with the side effects that take root later on in life. It's especially bad if kids start when they're five years old, before they've had a chance to develop a frame of mind and a sense of self.


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