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Off to Boarding School

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"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!"
Clarice Kensington, It Takes Two (1995)

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!note  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.

Typically, this trope is more prevalent in American media as opposed to countries where boarding schools are more normalized.

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 and Military School.


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    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.
  • 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 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 (or actually Mion) was supposed to have been killed at birth, so her existence is a secret in her hometown.
  • Lupin III: Part 5 has a non-villainous example. Lupin sends child prodigy hacker Ami to a French boarding school because he wants her to experience a normal childhood (while also keeping her safe from any dangers that come with his "job" as a master thief).
  • 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.

    Comic Books 
  • In the modern retelling of Little Women, Amy, who is half-black in this adaptation, is being bullied by a bunch of girls for her race and sense of style. When the truth comes out, Meg and Jo tattle about the main bully, Tara Connor, to her mother. Mrs. Connor is rightfully furious, and declares she’s sending Tara to boarding school.
  • Robin (1993): For one of the arcs during Chuck Dixon's run, Tim gets sent to Brentwood Academy by his dad, who is worried about him being a rebellious and secretive teenager.
  • In The Sandman (1989), 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.
  • 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.

    Fan Works 
  • Cross Ange The Knight Of Hilda: Rio reveals to Hilda that this is how his parents got rid of him following Sarah being taken away. They sent him to Durandal Academy, a school on the other end of the country, in order to preserve their reputations, and since they had never been particularly close, this was the final straw that broke their relationship for good.
  • Danny Phantom: Stranded: In Golden, Jean-Luc confronts his daughter over her obsession with Danny, informing her that if she doesn't dial it back, he'll send her off to boarding school. Colette angrily accuses Stella of convincing her father that it was his idea.
  • For His Own Sake: Once it becomes clear that Sarah believes that she can beat the heck out of anyone who disagrees with her — just like Naru and Motoko — Seta sends her to a strict boarding school. The headmistress there reams him out for being such a Pushover Parent that he's forced to foist off the responsibility for raising his daughter properly off on them.
  • The Karma of Lies: After winding up as Adrien's legal guardian, his Aunt Amelia responds to him threatening to blow off his online courses by calmly informing him that if his grades slip too much, she'll be shipping him off to Military School. Given that she pulled him out of school partly for his own protection, given that his father was unmasked as Hawkmoth and the public suspects he might have been assisting his sire, this is an unusual non-villainous example.
  • RealityCheck's Nyxverse: Discussed and Averted in Alicornundrum, where Nyx is afraid that the nobles will try to force a newly ascended Twilight into sending Nyx off to boarding school. When Lord Blueblood tries to force Twilight into marrying his son Prince Blueblood, it turns out boarding school is exactly what he intends for Nyx, thus getting her out of the way so his own son can sire a "legitimate heir" with Twilight. Twilight is having none of it, however, and Celestia firmly supports her in the matter.
  • In The Victors Project, a young Jade Boleyn is sent to her district's training academy to avoid legal action against her house, after one of her dares leaves a playmate paralyzed from the waist-down.
  • The Wolves in the Woods: In order to keep their kids from being sent to Juvie for their Barbaric Bullying, Alix and Kim's parents negotiate with the court that they'll ship the pair off to Military School at the end of the winter break.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 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.
  • In Back to the Future Part II, after Biff marries Lorraine in 1985-A, Marty is sent to (and expelled from) various boarding schools.
  • Ted 'Theodore' Logan, in Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, has a strict father who doesn't approve of his rock-star dreams and plans to send him off to "Oates Military Academy" if he doesn't get an A on his history final. Avoiding such a heinous and un-triumphant fate is what causes said excellent adventure in the first place.
  • In The Movie of The Cat in the Hat, Lawrence wants to marry Joan and send her son Conrad off to military school (apparently because Conrad knows what kind of a person Larry is). Unfortunately, his evil scheme is foiled by the Cat, making Lawrence go to military school alone while getting Joan to place a flyer for said school on his sticky purple goo covered body.
  • 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.
  • In most film versions of A Christmas Carol, as in the book, the Ghost of Christmas Past shows Scrooge a vision of his younger self alone at boarding school while the other boys have gone home for Christmas. Some versions, like Scrooge (1951) and A Christmas Carol (1984), even give more explanation than the book does for why Scrooge's father doesn't want him at home: usually that his mother died when he was born and his father still blames him for it.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Iron Man: Tony Stark says that the happiest day of his father's life was when he shipped him off to boarding school.
    • Ant-Man: Part of the estrangement between Hank and Hope comes from the fact he sent her to a boarding school after her mother died.
  • 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.
  • In The Parent Trap (1961) and its remake The Parent Trap (1998), the father's new fiancée plots to have his daughter sent away to boarding school after they're married.
  • 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!" Bonus points for there being a war on over there at the time the movie was released!
  • The Sound of Music: "Darling, haven't you ever heard of a delightful little thing called boarding school ?"
  • Three Men And A Little Lady has the director fiance of the little lady Mary's mother plotting to send Mary to one.


By Author:

By Title:

  • Subverted in Die Alchimistin. When Aura is told she's sent to a boarding school, she thinks it was her mother's doing, probably at the insistence of the latter's lover. However, it turns out that it was the father whom she trusted and thought her friend and confidant who planned it, and his goal was to preserve her virginity so that he would be able to get a child with her later.
  • The Baby-Sitters Club:
    • Logan almost got shipped off to his father's old boarding school but he and Mary Anne managed to talk him out of it.
    • Mallory effectively sends herself off to boarding school (her parents obviously have to sign off on it, but it's her idea and she's the one who puts in the work to make it happen) to get away from the extreme bullying she's been dealing with at the local school. In the one book it's featured in, the school seems to be pretty nice (except for Mallory initially having a Jerkass roommate, which is resolved by the end of the book) and Mallory is happy there.
  • Zig-zagged for Dinnie, the protagonist of the Sharon Creech novel Bloomability. Technically, she's sent to live with relatives... who run a boarding school, which she attends (although she continues to live in her relatives' house instead of the student housing). In her case, it's being done with good intentions; Dinnie's parents were poor and transient and both of her siblings had already started to have some issues (her brother was in trouble with the law and her sister had a baby at 16), so the family hoped that sending Dinnie to a more stable environment where she could go to a good school would help her to have a better life. She's not thrilled at first, perceiving it as her parents trying to get rid of her, but eventually comes to like the school and recognize that the situation is to her benefit.
  • Zig-zagged in the Chalet School series. While some girls are sent off to the Chalet School as a punishment (Richenda Fry being one of the most obvious examples) and/or because their parents and/or guardians want to get rid of them, others are sent for more positive reasons. For instance, Dr Marilliar recommends it for Lavender Leigh in Lavender Laughs because he thinks settling in one place will be good for her health, while Nina Rutherford's family in Genius hope she will become more rounded as a person and learn other skills besides music.
  • Enchanted Forest Chronicles Suggested in Searching for Dragons when Cimorene and Mendanbar come 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. Mendanbar'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.
  • Cornelia Funke's Ghost Knight has ten-year-old Jon Whitcroft sent off to boarding school by his mother, who has gotten serious with a new boyfriend. The boarding school in question has a lot of ghosts that hate his guts and want revenge for something his ancestors did long, long ago.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 for both her and the girl, getting rid of Lolita is the last thing that Humbert wants — he married Charlotte with the intention of getting close to her daughter. 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 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 supposedly 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.

    Live-Action TV 

In General:

  • 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.

By Series:

  • In The Love Boat episode "Return of the Ninny," a woman plans to have her fiancé's kids sent to boarding school and the nanny fired so she won't have to deal with them. Her plans fall apart when the father hears the nanny discussing the future with the kids, causing him to call off the engagement.
  • This happened to Glen Bishop in Mad Men. He and Sally maintained a long-distance relationship via secret late-night phone calls.
  • In The Nanny episode "A Star is Unborn", Brighton and Gracie are playing:
    Brighton: (in Eastern European accent) I'm Dracula, I'm gonna suck outall your blood and bury you alive!
    Gracie: You don't scare me!
    Brighton: (in normal voice) All right, fine. I'm the C.C. monster(C.C. Babcock, their dad's business partner), and I'm going to marry Dad and send you away to boarding school!
    Gracie: (runs away screaming)
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

    Video Games 
  • In Bully, the protagonist is a troublemaker who is dropped off in an amazingly shitty boarding school by his neglectful mother so she wouldn't have to deal with him personally.
  • In Love & Pies, Sebastian suggests that Amelia send her daughter Kate to boarding school, claiming that she'd do well there. Amelia objects because Kate's just four, but Sebastian claims that it's "never too early" for her to start. Esme, on the other hand, wishes that Sebastian was sent to boarding school when they were kids so she wouldn't have had to look at him during sports class.
  • 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. To be fair, she did become a fantastic actress because of the schools training, with fame and riches that far outshone her Stage Mom. Unfortunately, it's also the underlying reason for her mental breakdown, which kicks in after her mother commits suicide.

    Web Comics 
  • In Joe vs. Elan School, the narrator of Chapter 88, Katie, says that she was sent to the titular abusive school by her "asshole" stepfather over her mother's wishes.
  • In the NSFW comic Moon Over June, when Summer was caught making out with a girl in her mother Colleen's closet, she was promptly sent off to an all-girl's Catholic boarding school to 'purge' her of her 'unnatural lust'. One wonders why they would send a lesbian to an all-girl's school, that's like taking away a candy bar then sending them to a chocolate factory. Later revelations suggest that was Colleen's reason for sending Summer there: to give her a safe space to explore her sexuality while paying lip-service to the idea of reform to keep Summer safe from her homophobic father. Colleen, an in-the-closet lesbian herself at the time, wanted Summer to have the chances she couldn't get.

    Western Animation 
  • Archer reveals that the main character spent the majority of his childhood and teenage years bounced around different boarding schools (where he was either ostracized or relentlessly bullied) because his mother couldnt be bothered to raise him, being more concerned with her career as a spy, her love life and her dog! To no one's surprise, Archer has a lot of issues stemming from his crappy youth, which is part of the reason for why he's such a womanizing jerkass.
  • This almost happened to Remy Remington in the Big City Greens episode "Remy Rescue".
  • Inverted in an episode of Code Lyoko, where Ulrich's abusive father wants to pull him out of boarding school because his grades are poor (which was presumably also the reason he was sent to Kadic Academy in the first place).
  • Also happens in "Till Nephews Do Us Part" from DuckTales (1987), 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.
  • The Powerpuff Girls (1998) 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).
  • In the Totally Spies! episode "Alex gets Schooled," Alex's parents send her to a boarding school in England after she gets all Fs on her report card. Said school is run by a psychotic headmaster who tries to turn all his students, including Alex, into mutated dolphin people. Luckily, Sam and Clover come to the rescue and stop the headmaster and his evil plan. At the end of the episode, Alex's parents let her stay in Beverly Hills when it turns out there was a mix-up at school and all those Fs weren't Alex's; they were Mandy's.

    Real Life 
  • 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.)