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School Is Murder

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"We're proud to say that the class of '99 has the lowest mortality rate of any graduating class in Sunnydale history."
Jonathan Levinson, Buffy the Vampire Slayer

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

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

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

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

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

Contrast Academy of Adventure, where every school day is full of thrills but no one ever dies. See also Axes at School.

No Real Life Examples, Please!


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Ranma ½: Nerima's Furinkan High School is a place where Ranma Saotome is constantly challenged to fights, rivals try to kill him, and the student body has to endure the insanity of their Caligula-like principal, who has a love for placing death courses that they are forced to try to navigate with the reward of being exempt from his latest humiliating edict if they do.
  • Kill la Kill: Honnouji Academy runs on a brutal code of Darwinism enforced with murder, warfare and death courses that the student body must navigate in order to get to school or be expelled.
  • Talentless Nana: The Academy of Adventure for kids with superpowers quickly turns into this after the Enemies of Humanity show up. After all, they're there to train and learn how to fight them. Or so the government wants them to believe. The whole school is a setup for superpowered individuals to gather in one place so that their assassin, Nana, can kill them.

    Comic Books 
  • X-Men: The Xavier Institute. In case you thought "Hope you survive the experience" was hyperbole, the school has a pretty low survival rate. Special bonus points go to the class of New X-Men: Academy X, who began dying or being depowered en masse and randomly, without finishing the ongoing and set up storylines. Most school alums have died or gone through something extremely traumatic in their days at school at least once.
  • Supergirl mini-series Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures in the 8th Grade has the Stanhope Elementary. Even if you survive the mad scientists, super-villainous students, trickster gods masquerading as teachers and mean super-cats with burning claws, you might still be exterminated by the Eldritch Abomination who is posing as the Principal while figuring out how to destroy your whole plane of existence.
  • Batman: The absurdly dangerous Jackson High in Gotham which Tim Drake infiltrates during The Seduction of the Gun. Evidently well over 95% of the students there carry guns, every student Tim talks to there has been shot, and even though the school has metal detectors at the doors they're only turned on for a brief period on Wednesday mornings for some reason. Tim's there for about two days and witnesses two murders.

    Fan Works 
  • In When Reason Fails, UA's education strategy for their student Initiates is to simulate the world of Initiates in miniature on campus. This involves not simulating danger, but having real danger. Part of the reason for this is due to the Principal liking watching people struggle.
    Himiko: Normal courses have graduation rates, Black Course has survival rates. I think it's close to 50% on average. But sometimes entire classes don't make it.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In the 1976 Exploitation Film Massacre at Central High, the student body is tormented by a trio of bullies. After new student David refuses to fall in line and intervenes in their Attempted Rape of two female students, they cripple him by kicking the jack from under the car he's working on, crushing his leg. This sends David on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge in which he kills the bullies in increasingly sadistic and gruesome ways. His revenge, however, does not stop once the bullies are dead and he begins to murder fellow bullying victims. Despite the absurdly high number of students that die under suspicious circumstances, the school is never shut down. No adults are even seen on screen until the final scene where the police show up to arrest the wrong suspects following David's Karmic Death.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: At Sunnydale High, student death is an accepted fact of life. It's not uncommon for any gathering place for teenagers to be over run by murderous bad guys. The principal insists it's thugs hopped up on PCP. During graduation, this trend is lampshaded with Buffy's senior class celebrating having the lowest mortality rate in Sunnydale High history.
  • In Class (2016), Coal Hill Academy (which has a decades-long previous history in the Doctor Who franchise) has an unusually high death rate. The school and its students and staff are routinely attacked because of its Weirdness Magnet status which attracts Big Bads from across space and time. The first episode, "For Tonight We Might Die", focused on the disappearance and death of Kevin Williams. Another student commented on his disappearance saying:
    "Everyone knows students at this school disappear. They all just pretend it isn't happening."
  • In a slightly older version of the trope, Scream Queens (2015) features the ladies of Kappa Kappa Tau who are being systematically and grotesquely murdered by the serial killer, The Red Devil. While these deaths are concerning to the general student body and the police investigate, the weekly multiple murders aren't seen as sufficient reason to shutter the sorority (which has threatened litigation if day-to-day function is hampered in any way) or to suspend classes at the university for student safety. Nearly the entire sorority is murdered or accused of murder over the course of the first season, but it is treated like a bothersome in-house issue.
  • Smallville: During Clark's teenaged years at Smallville High, one student a week would be revealed as a kryptofreak. They would usually kill one or two other students before Clark was able to figure out what was going on and stop them. In the first few episodes, the student body would be shown mourning the victims, but by season 2, dead classmates didn't even register as a blip on their collective radar.
  • In the Supernatural episode "After School Special", no one seems particularly alarmed that the students suddenly start maiming and killing each other, with the assaults being treated like aggressive bullying. Authorities are not called in and Sam and Dean only show up because Sam reads about the attacks and remembers having attended the school as a kid. Since the cops were never called, Sam and Dean have to infiltrate as a custodian and a substitute gym teacher.
  • Teen Wolf: Stiles, Scott, and the rest of the pack are struggling to get out of high school as they deal with teachers, guidance counselors, principals, and other students who are trying to kill them.
  • Todd and the Book of Pure Evil: The town of Crowley Heights was founded by Satanist seeking a place to worship the Dark Lord in peace. As a result, Crowley High is a Weirdness Magnet as would be expected in a town founded by a satanic cult. The students routinely die brutally and ironically as part of the backlash of a wish they made using the book. Everyone knows the risk of casting a wish, but seem to think they will be the exception. The adults know what's happening but are either useless or evil.

    Video Games 
  • Danganronpa: A group of students are invited by mysterious letter to attend Hope's Peak Academy. Once there, the invited group is forced to participate in a "death game" orchestrated by an animatronic bear. In order to win, the designated murderer must get away with murdering another student. All the other participants are working to uncover the true murderer. Death is the punishment for failure. If the murderer escapes detection, they will be the lone survivor. If the group unmasks the murderer, they will be released back into the school and the murderer executed via Cruel and Unusual Death. Despite the rules indicating that there has been at least one survivor per group, word has not spread to shut the school down and warn people against accepting the invites.
  • In Double Homework, Dr. Mosely/Zeta shoots Dennis in the head, and tries to kill off the rest of her summer school class with an avalanche caused by explosives. Since they know too much, they are all “liabilities.”
  • Yandere Simulator: The method the player character uses to win the affections of their love interest, Senpai can create this type of school. The objective is to eliminate ten romantic rivals. Methods can be as benign as matchmaking your rival with another boy, more devious such as framing them for cheating on a test and getting them expelled, or completely vicious such as driving them to suicide or murdering them outright. If students start disappearing and bodies turn up as clear evidence of a murderous serial killer, the school's "atmosphere" level drops, making students apprehensive, frightened, and extremely vigilant. While the more paranoid atmosphere increases the game difficulty, multiple student deaths does not result in an automatic game over.

    Web Animation 
  • Shut Up! Cartoons series Oishi High School Battle, has Oishi Kawaii, a demon slayer from outerspace attending an Earth high school. However all of the demonic threats she fights have followed her over. As a result, student and staff deaths are pretty much a daily occurence, to the point where the school principal gets annoyed rather than horrified when notified of casualties.

    Western Animation 
  • In Detentionaire, A. Nigma High appears to be an ordinary school at first glance, but as the series progresses it's anything but normal. For one the school is run by a cyborg principal who's a former army general and Drill Sergeant Nasty, constantly hunting bad students. There are psycho cleaners in hazmat suits, that are actually robotic drones that work for him. Then there's the unveiling of the conspiracy involving the school, where a select few shady individuals plan to take control on a global scale. Needless to say life endangerment is to be expected at this high school.
  • While murder may be a bit of a stretch, the students of Collège Françoise Dupont in Miraculous Ladybug know that at anytime on any day someone could be turned into a super villain and several episodes feature one of the school's students becoming said villain.
    • Moreso the staff and students know that the cause is emotional distress and a common factor in most of them is the local Alpha Bitch but no one makes an organized anti-bullying effort.
  • Hexside of The Owl House heavily implies this at times. Living in the Death World that is the Boiling Isles is bad enough, but being a student means being constantly at risk of getting cursed, eaten by the various monsters that roam the school, or thrown into the Fate Worse than Death that is detention.
  • In a younger version of the trope, The Simpsons Halloween Special Treehouse Of Horror V features "Nightmare Cafeteria", where the staff of Springfield Elementary decides to get rid of trouble makers by sending them to detention, where they are then killed and turned into next week's cafeteria menu. When Bart and Lisa tell their mother, Marge, what's happening, she refuses to help.
    Bart and Lisa: Mom! Mom! You've gotta help! They're cooking kids in the school cafeteria.
    Marge: Listen, kids. You're eight and ten years old now. I can't fight all your battles for you.
    Bart and Lisa: But Mom...
    Marge: No buts. You march right back to that school, look them straight in the eye and say "Please, don't eat me."
  • Strange Hill High is a Weirdness Magnet and all sorts of monster and baddies have shown up to harass and terrorize the students. The main cast find themselves having to constantly foil the Monster of the Week while trying to stay alive.