"You have had Roger to yourself for nine wonderful years, but after tomorrow I'm the woman of the house and you're off to a year-round boarding school... possibly in Tibet! Ahahaha!"You're a Card-Carrying Villain, about to marry a lovable, but chronically Genre Blind single parent. It's perfect! You can have endless sex with someone who is obviously a bombshell and you can spend their giant fortune any way you want! The only problem is their "bratty" kids who can tell you're a Devil in Plain Sight. What should you do about them? Hollywood always provides the same answer. Send them to boarding school!* Now you have to keep them from talking their parent out of marrying you just long enough to make it to the altar. After that, it's smooth sailing. Naturally, this always fails at the last minute. This trope will usually go hand-in-hand with Guess Who I'm Marrying?, although either can occur without the other. Contrast the Boarding School genre, in which going away to an Elaborate University High is portrayed as a good thing. If the school actually appears, rather than being kept as an offstage threat, expect a Boarding School of Horrors. This trope can be combined with Dustbin School. Not to be confused with "Not Important to This Episode" Camp in which the sending away is not for evil purposes, but merely as a plot convenience.
— Clarice Kensington, It Takes Two (the Olsen twins' take on The Parent Trap)
open/close all folders
Anime & Manga
- A non-villainous example occurs in Binbou Shimai Monogatari, when Asu and Kyou move in with their aunt she intends to send Kyou to a boarding school, but they convince her that it would be better for them to remain together.
- In the Utsutsukowashi-hen arc of Higurashi: When They Cry, Shion is sent off to a boarding school to keep her out of family business. Also, being a twin, she was supposed to have been killed at birth, so her existence is a secret in her hometown.
- In Umineko: When They Cry Ange Ushiromiya gets sent off to Saint Lucia Academy for girls where she is bullied relentlessly by her fellow classmates.
- Happens to the titular character in Candy Candy, but under orders of her Mysterious Protector Uncle William rather than a villain. (Though one of the local Rich Bitches, Aunt Elroy, is involved.) This kicks off an entire arc that happens in said school, Saint Paul's College in England, with important Character Development for Candy and her friends — not to mention the introduction of another boy who's sent there by his father, Terry Granchester.
- In the horror anthology comic The Witching Hour in a story published around 1980 or so, a young boy is sent away to a very distant and exclusive boarding school by his Evil Stepfather. Unbeknownst to the Evil Stepfather, the school was a Witches' School (this was a generation before Harry Potter). When the boy returns for vacation, he uses his supernatural powers to discover that the stepfather had murdered his father, seduced his mother, and taken credit for his late father's work. The Evil Stepfather then dies a horrid, screaming, fear-filled death that the police couldn't possibly label murder.
- In The Sandman, Charles Rowland is sent off to boarding school because his single-parent dad works for the British foreign service. At one point, having died of injuries sustained at the hands of undead bullies, he wonders if his being sent to boarding school was just a way for his dad to avoid actually having to be a parent.
- Pretty much every version of The Parent Trap and black & white (1935, 1951) versions of A Christmas Carol (Ghost of Christmas Past).
- The Children's Hour has a bully of a girl in one of them spreading nasty rumors about two of its female teachers after being punished.
- The Sound of Music: "Darling, haven't you ever heard of a delightful little thing called boarding school ?"
- Damien: Omen II: 13 year old Satan's son, Damien Thorn, is at an American military one with his same-age (and thanks to him, ill- fated) cousin.
- Detroit Rock City: Teenage Kiss fans in the titular's 1978 Kiss mania peak bust one of their stoner pals out of a Catholic one
- In Back to the Future Part II, after Biff marries Lorraine in 1985-A, Marty is sent to (and expelled from) various boarding schools.
- Problem Child 2: "Whether you like it or not, I am going to marry your daddy. And when I do, you will be on the first plane to boarding school - in Baghdad!"
- Fire with Fire (1986): had the leading lady at a convent one with parents plotting to force her into a Swiss finishing one after her graduation from the convent's high school.
- Three Men And A Little Lady has the musician fiance of the little lady's, Mary, mother plotting to send Mary to one
- In The Movie of The Cat in the Hat, Alec Baldwin wants to marry Kelly Preston and send her son off to military school (same dif). Unfortunately, his evil scheme was foiled by Mike Myers, making Baldwin go to military school alone while getting Kelly Preston to place a military school flyer on his sticky, purple goo filled body, thus ending the film with Fanning, Preston and Breslin (all 3) jumping on a couch as Myers sets off on his own (with Thing 1 and Thing 2).
- Addams Family Values was a weird case. One, the kids were not the children of the married (Uncle Fester and serial murderess Debbie Jellinsky). Two, they were shipped off. Three, it wasn't a boarding school but a summer camp. And four, they didn't prevent Debbie from executing her scheme — Fester, being an Addams, proves harder to kill than her other victims, and when Fester escapes and Debbie turns her wrath toward the entire family, it is little Pubert who ends up literally short-circuiting her plans.
- Iron Man: Tony Stark says that the happiest day of his father's life was when he shipped him off to boarding school.
- The original plan for Stu (the wife's new boyfriend) in the movie Mrs. Doubtfire was for him to be a jerk who wanted to do this to the kids.
- Averted in Jane Eyre where Jane's aunt Sarah sends her to boarding school to get rid of her, but Jane is just as happy to leave since said aunt is abusive. It really is a mix of Orphanage of Fear and Boarding School of Horrors, though.
- But played straight when Blanche Ingram wants to send Adele to boarding school... where she goes for a while, though for totally different reasons, when her governess/stepmother walks out and her guardian (probably her father, for all he denies this) becomes disabled.
- Played straight (this page's description is exactly accurate) in I'm the King of the Castle; however the plan is foiled in the most horrible way possible.
- Inverted spectacularly in Lolita. Single mother Charlotte Haze plans to send her daughter Dolores (a.k.a. Lolita) off to summer camp and then to boarding school in order to get her out of her hair so she can enjoy the attentions of her Affably Evil paramour, Humbert Humbert. Unfortunately, getting rid of Lolita is the last thing that Humbert wants. Lolita, on the other hand, has no clue that Humbert secretly holds her mother in contempt and in fact seems to harbor a schoolgirl crush on him (according to Humbert, anyway). The marriage goes off without a hitch, Charlotte gets conveniently killed by a car, and Humbert is free to happily molest his step-daughter.
- Pretty much the whole point of Dotheboys Hall in Nicholas Nickleby.
- Suggested in Searching for Dragons when Cimorene comes across a would-be Evil Uncle. He's in the Wicked Stepmothers' Society (Male Auxiliary) but has been commanded by them to do something "evil" or lose his membership. He joined the society before he actually got to know his nephew, and is at a loss for what to do, since the nephew wants to be an adventurer and thinks the uncle's attempts to get him lost in the forest are just great fun. Cimorene's solution? Off to Boarding School! The kid will hate it, but it won't actually harm him, so the uncle can appease both the society and his conscience.
- Many of the Gone characters have this in their backstory. Many of these are justified, since the boarding school in question - Coates Acadey - is a school for "difficult" kids, but others are just excuses to send kids away. For example, Drake was sent to Coates for shooting at the boy next door, Diana for lying to the police, Caine because his parents realized he was a sociopath, Jack for hacking a government website, Dekka for kissing a girl, and Brianna for failing math.
- Cornelia Funke's Ghost Knight.
- Jeanne Birdsall's The Penderwicks has Jeffrey's mother and her fiancé pulling the Military School example. It should be said, though, that in this case the mother is just as bad as the fiancé.
- In David Copperfield, the title character is sent off to a Boarding School of Horrors after her bites his wicked stepfather Edward Murdstone as reply to his abusive behavior. He only can get out of it when his mother Clara and his half-brother die of illness.
- In the original Papelucho, Papelucho and his Aloof Big Brother Javier spend the second part of the book in a boarding school run by the priesthood.
- The Baby-Sitters Club:
- Mallory, although this was actually HER decision.
- Logan almost got shipped off to his father's old boarding school but he and Mary Anne managed to talk him out of it.
- In the Sweet Valley High book Nowhere To Run, secondary character Emily Mayer is constantly being bullied and terrorized by her stepmother Karen, who constantly changes the house rules so that Emily always seems to be in violation of them, tells her father outright lies about her, or at the very least, spins things to make Emily seem to be in the wrong. It's soon revealed that one of the things Karen frequently hints at is sending the supposed troublemaking Emily to a boarding school both so that she can be reformed and so that she won't be a bad influence on her baby sister.
- In The Thief Lord, Prosper and Bo ran off to Venice after Prosper got wind of his aunt Esther's plans to send him off to boarding school. At the end, this is the fate of the de-aged Barbarossa; Esther adopts him, but eventually discovers that he's been stealing from her and sends him off to boarding school.
- In an episode of The Nanny, Brighton and Gracie are playing:
Brighton: (in Eastern European accent) I'm Dracula, and I'm going to suck all your blood and bury you alive!Gracie: You don't scare me!Brighton: (in normal voice) All right, fine. I'm C.C. (C.C. Babcock, their dad's business partner), and I'm gonna marry Dad and send you away to boarding school!"Gracie: (runs away screaming)
- On Roswell, Liz's father uses this seriously as a threat, when it seems like Max is having a corrupting influence on his formerly straitlaced daughter (they get arrested for armed robbery as part of a botched scheme to find Max's spaceship): he demands that both of them stay away from each other, or off she goes to Vermont — he's already sent a deposit! Then, later in the season, Liz's father forgives Max and gives him a second chance, only to have Liz haul herself off to the boarding school when she suddenly start to feel as if knowing Max has ruined her life.
- Punky Brewster once left her foster father believing it'd keep him and his girlfriend from breaking up when they argued over sending her to a boarding school.
- This happened to Glen Bishop in Mad Men. He and Sally maintained a long-distance relationship via secret late-night phone calls.
- Quinn Hodes of Weeds gets shipped off to Casa Reforma, a boarding school in Mexico, by her mother after she uses a nannycam to tape her father and Celia's husband having sex with a tennis pro. Quinn is not very happy with her for having done this — in fact she takes her mother hostage in Season 4 and tries to have her organs sold off, only to find out she can't do this as Celia has had chemotherapy.
- Soap operas frequently have characters do this with their children to allow for Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome to take place. It generally seems to be regarded as evil behavior for the parent in question, as most kids come back resentful of their parents for sending them away, overlooking the fact that they received a very good education. General Hospital's Lois was horrified when her grandfather-in-law called the school to enroll her child, even though she had only just announced her pregnancy, citing family tradition. She made it abundantly clear that she would not be sending her child away.
- In Psychonauts Gloria's backstory involved being sent to a cruel acting school as a girl through the machinations of her mother's boyfriend, who prevented any letters from her mother sent to her.
- The Powerpuff Girls episode "Mommy Fearest" has Sedusa doing this to the girls while disguising herself as a woman (Ima Goodlady) that the Professor goes ga-ga for... (much to the Mayor's dismay as he turns his back against her by un-grounding the girls and throwing her boot-ay in jail where she belongs). Sedusa returned but disguises herself as Sara Bellum's evil twin in the episode "Something's a Ms." (a parody of "Something's a Miss"), not knowing that the girls and Sara Bellum accidentally discover her evil scheme of ruining/destroying someone else's house and wind up getting caught by the police (well, actually Sedusa).
- Also happens in "Till Nephews Do Us Part" from DuckTales, where a Rich Bitch has set her eyes on Uncle Scrooge. She plans to send Huey, Dewey and Louie to military school and Webigail to finishing school ("I don't want to be finished!") Fortunately, his old love from the Klondike shows up and spoils the plan.
- Almost happened to Polly Pocket in "Pollyworld''. Ironically, it wasn't Polly who stopped her would-be Stepmother. What saved Polly was an Accidental Public Confession.
- Joan Crawford's daughter Christina, as related in Mommie Dearest.
- The schools described above for Nicholas Nickleby and Jane Eyre were based on real schools, both in Yorkshire. Yorkshire schools became infamous in this period for offering suspiciously cheap education and board, with adverts that also stated: "NO VACATIONS"- very obviously aimed at middle-class people who had kids on their hands they wanted to get rid of (Yorkshire was probably the hotspot for this because it was relatively far from London.)