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"And my high school: it felt more to me
Like a jail cell, a penitentiary
"
Good Charlotte, "The Anthem"
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The opposite of Elaborate University High, a school that isn't very good at teaching because of budget issues. Expect the textbooks and the technology to be massively out of date and have Cold War-era information at best. It may or may not be an Assimilation Academy. The school is often full of ridiculously mean teachers, bullies of all races, colors, creeds, and social backgrounds, and run by an even worse principal. If they actually try to be integrated, expect them to apply Political Correctness Gone Mad. The trope is often used to satirize or dramatize how horrible the public school system is (especially if this trope is used in an American work, as parents and adults worrying over the quality of children's education is a major issue).

The Inner City School is often the victim of this trope. The Boarding School of Horrors is even worse, especially because you have to live there. Contrast the Cool School, where even if it's not all sunshine and rainbows, it's well worth it. See the Phony Degree trope when the Sucky School is a college that's little more than a diploma mill. See also Daycare Nightmare, for even younger characters.

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Examples:

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    Anime and Manga 
  • Assassination Classroom distills this into a single class: it turns out the worst students are all stuffed into the same class with an alien teacher so the rest of the school has someone to look down on. When they start improving the school takes measures to keep them down.
  • Akehisa High in Kyou Kara Ore wa!!, due to the high number of delinquents among their students... As in all of them. They are not the worst school, Hokunei is... Or rather was, as its students burned it down.
  • Go Nagai provided a couple interesting examples:
    • The titular school of Harenchi Gakuen (it translates as "Shameless School"), where the insane teachers go around naked, torment their students and even molest them sexually, and have tried to outright murder them more than once... And the students are just as bad, only clothed (usually). It's stated there's an international network of such schools, with the Italian one getting shut down (as in bombed to rubble with all students and teachers killed, with only one teacher escaping) at some point and the first part of the series having the (main) Japanese one fall to the same fate.
    • Kekko Kamen has Sparta Academy, that manages to mix this trope with Elaborate University High: the place is a boarding school, with the students living in luxurious single rooms and the teachers being universally very competent (at one point the females' PE teacher explained that you can be hired there only with a Class A teaching license before listing the enormous skillset she had to acquire before achieving her license)... But, with a single exception, the teachers are sadistic disciplinarians and perverts, and it's perfectly normal to be tortured for achieving less than 90% on a test, to the point there's a high suicide rate among the students or the teachers make it look like one after said torture actually kills them. Said suicide rate prompted the police and the Ministry of Education to investigate by sending Kekko Kamen, who by the Grand Finale has found enough evidence to get the school shut down.
  • Cromartie High School takes this Up to Eleven. No teachers in sight and a reputation that if you can write your name you can enroll. Not to mention a robot, a former plane hijacker, and a gorilla as students.

    Comic Books 
  • The school from the Bash Street Kids in The Beano. One of the cartoon adaptations had the school shut down because of this (it was back by the end of the episode.) No one learns, outdated books, falling apart building which has no central heating and (wasn't outdated then) teacher still wearing a mortarboard.
    • Most of the pupils don't wear a uniform, either (the only one who does is a snobby elitist), and all attempts to get them to do so are farcical.

    Fan Works 
  • The crossover Senpai: A Story of Good Friends has, true to the source material, Furinkan, Tomobiki and Butsumetsu high schools (the latter having a junior high section that is identified as the school Ranma went at before going to China, where students routinely fought for the best meal), well known for their unruly and underperforming students. Turns out someone's doing it on purpose: Asuka Saginomiya runs a switching grades ring, with the grades of the best students from the supposedly lesser schools being switched around for those of people who can pay for the honor of entering the supposedly elite Kolkhoz High. With some of the people screwed up this way being Nabiki and Kasumi. Needless to say, when Kodachi (who has moved to Furinkan after her brother was hospitalized) and her student council (including, among others, Ranma and Nabiki) find out, they're not happy.
  • In A Sky Of A Million Stars: Aldera Junior High, Izuku and Katsuki's middle school. While Izuku's suicide attempt is the most prolific screw-up they've had thus far, the place was already seen in a bad light due to various cover-ups and scandals. Izuku himself has no clue how the place is still standing, let alone operational.
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    Film 
  • In The Faculty, there is a scene early on that takes place at a faculty meeting, where they are deciding how to divide the school's budget. Much to the teachers' chagrin, money that could be used for buying new textbooks or putting on a School Play other than Our Town (which they did last year) is instead directed towards the football team, because, as Principal Drake explains, they live in a football town. She doesn't think the football team deserves all the attention and funding, but it's what the parents want. As well, there are several points that hint the school is in some definite need of refurbishing, such as door frames in need of paint coatings.
    • Also, take a look at the map of Europe in the history classroom. Despite the film being set in 1998, the map still shows a united Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, and Czechoslovakia, implying that it's at least ten years old — and judging by the condition it's in, probably older.
  • Shermer High is implied to be this in The Breakfast Club.
  • Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie carries over this status for Jerome Horwitz Elementary from the books (see below).
  • In Teachers, students get stabbed, teachers fight, there's teacher-student sex, and a student sues the school after he graduated despite being illiterate.
  • High School High parodies this while also combining it with the Inner City School. The teachers are either corrupt or undermined, hardly any of the students in the senior class graduate, the vice principal runs the school (particularly her fellow staff) with an iron hand and the principal himself was abducted twice (including in broad daylight).

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the Netflix adaptation of 13 Reasons Why, the school's students and staff, while affluent, range anywhere between callously uncaring and deliberately cruel. The school counselor is playing on his phone while Hannah is trying to tell him that Bryce, the popular jock, raped her at a party. During the ensuing legal deposition, one student says that the staff only cares about boosting and propping up the egos of the popular kids. The staff also give almost no shits that a student is dead, and are more concerned about if/when they will be facing a lawsuit.
  • In Glee: Principal Figgins is constantly telling Mr Schue that he can't help out with monetary issues within the Glee Club, and he [the principal] is always talking about the school's very tight budget; however, the reason that the school has no money to spend on costumes and the like is that the Cheerios have their own private photocopier and get their dry cleaning done in Europe.
  • Outnumbered makes a Running Gag of implying the school Pete teaches at is one.
  • Mr. D: Xavier Academy looks like an Elaborate University High, but they have the title character as a teacher. And the others aren't that much better.
  • Greendale Community College of Community is half this and half just bizarre. There aren't really mean teachers, however. Instead, the faculty seems to be composed of incompetent Cloud Cuckoolanders of every description. There are also money issues:
    Dean Pelton: We're broke, Ben! We now get 80% of our electricity from the apartment building across the street!
    • In later seasons it comes out that the school is primarily funded by private donations from alumni of the air conditioning repair annex, who go on to blue-collar but relatively well-paying careers in HVAC maintenance.
  • Family Ties had Grant College, which Mallory and Skippy attend. Again, no mean teachers but the college is known and shown to be remarkably substandard: their radio commercials mention it's "conveniently located near several major highways" and they have a class on opening umbrellas.
  • Waterloo Road was the worst sort of failing sink secondary modern before an idealistic and capable head (Angela Burton) took over. Even then it was a long road, faced with hostile parents, couldn't-care-less kids, and a hostile LEA.
  • Strange Hill High: The headmaster is constantly cutting corners to save money, the teachers are either sadists or idiots, the Scary Librarian does not like children touching the books, the caretaker has been at the school for centuries. Oh, and the entire school is a nexus for weird events.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Not only does Sunnydale High fulfill pretty much every bad high school trope in existence, but it's also on top of a Hellmouth that gets a substantial number of the students and staff killed on a regular basis.
  • Boston Public: A major storyline of the show's third season had Winslow High struggling with budget issues. The Mayor of Boston sent a representative, Dave Fields, to advise the administrators on how to improve the school, but his suggestions end up being All for Nothing and the school falls under threat of massive budget cuts. Principal Steven Harper and Vice Principal Scott Guber hit upon the radical solution to cut all funding for athletics to save academics, and Steven challenges parents to fund school sports themselves.

    Literature 
  • Jerome Horwitz Elementary in Captain Underpants provides the page image. The school library is shown as being almost completely free of books, with a librarian who discourages reading. The school also has signs posted encouraging mindless conformity. The teachers are also pretty much entirely either idiots or sadists. Not to mention the principal, who is a complete Jerkass to the point of blackmailing students- which is why those same students hypnotize him into becoming Captain Underpants (when he's in that mode, his personality takes a complete 180).
  • Danish author Hans Scherfig's classic novel The Stolen Spring revolves around a group of pupils at the mercy of Sadist teachers and outdated learning at a prestigious school in Copenhagen (a thinly veiled Expy of Scherfig's own alma mater, Metropolitanskolen).
    "Disciplina sollerti fingitur ingenium" is written over the gate. It means something like: "Beatings are good for spiritual development."
  • Features prominently in many of the books of Daniel Pinkwater. Schools are typically populated by Drill Sergeant Nasty type gym teachers, academic teachers who are too crazy for their students to learn from them, and students who are cruel bullies.
    • The aptly-named George Armstrong Custer High, from the Snarkout Boys books is a classic example, full of crazy if not outright malicious teachers and apathetic students.
    • In Alan Mendelsohn, the Boy from Mars, Bat Masterson Junior High is a dull and terrible place to be. All the kids are snobby and look down on anyone who isn't neat and well-dressed, but they're all stupid and sub-literate. The teachers all teach from the textbook and move so slowly that Leonard completely stops participating, causing the teachers to think he's feeble-minded even though he is quite intelligent. The gym teacher is an abusive Drill Sergeant Nasty type who is somehow popular with all the kids except for Leonard.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Calvin and Hobbes discuss yet "another typical school day".
  • Doonesbury's Walden College is another postsecondary example. It has a worse graduation rate than some for-profit colleges, and once marketed itself as "America's safety school".
    • In the latest new daily strips so far (before a hiatus), Walden has become for-profit.
  • Common in Chick Tracts.
    • "War Zone" is about a school ruled by gangs, where Moose slashes a teacher's tire for giving him homework. The teachers can't teach the students anything, and some kids can't even read. Naturally, things turn around once Moose gets converted to Christianity.
    • Other schools appear to be operating normally but are seen as tools to advance a Satanic agenda. For example, Li'l Susy's school teaches evolution, requires kids to dress up for Halloween, and teaches kids about gay couples, all things Chick considers terrible.

    Print Media 

    Video Games 
  • The Nether Institute Evil Academy, the setting of Disgaea 3: Absence of Justice. It's located in the Netherworld and run by demons, and since Disgaea demons run on Bad is Good and Good is Bad, at the school students who skip class and break rules are considered honor students whereas unashamed goody-two-shoes are considered delinquents. Not only that, but the teachers actually hate teaching, and will fight to keep students from their classes. An NPC even admits that because of this policy, no one has ever graduated (except for Raspberyl and her posse), and students just keep paying tuition forever.
    • Its Updated Re-release, Absence of Detention, gives us Death Institute Majin Academy. Even though it is an elite school meant to raise Majins, the only actual Majins in the school are the Student Body President Stella Grossular and the Chief Director who is her father, and who has been dead for a long time. In fact, the school has hardly any students and has been on the brink of being shut down. Stella's entire motivation has been to ruin the Evil Academy's reputation so that Majin Academy can get a boost in popularity.
  • Bullworth Academy in Bully is filled with corruption, bullying, violence, and vandalism, and none of the authority figures seem to care, or even acknowledge it, lauding it as school spirit.
  • Hope's Peak Academy of Danganronpa would probably function perfectly fine as a haven for the best and brightest of society to have their natural talents nurtured if it wasn't for the incredibly Skewed Priorities of its staff. Danganronpa 3 reveals the Ultimate students don't even have to attend class and are simply expected to practice their talents, which include luck and being a princess. Also, an immoral experiment to create the "Ultimate Hope" by implanting all Ultimate talents known into one person while causing Death of Personality was so expensive that they opened the very exclusive school up to the public via an expensive reserve course which sees none of the benefits of the rest of the school. They also turned a blind eye to Junko Enoshima's despair-inducing machinations involving the "Ultimate Hope" Izuru Kamukura until it was too late, leading to the end of civilization.
  • Stilwater University in Saints Row 2 isn't the best of colleges. Though the place itself looks decent, gangs patrol the campus and conduct business there, two feuding fraternities perform pledge hazings and pranks that get people hurt (if not killed), the institute has a drug problem, a (presumably illegal) brothel is being operated out of an internet cafe, Ultor uses it as a recruiting ground, there's a nuclear power plant located southwest of the U, it has a sports team that its cheerleaders boast about cheating and apparently isn't very good, and only seven subjects are taught.
  • Akademi High School in Yandere Simulator isn't the best place to learn. The principal is in cahoots with the local Mega-Corp (whose heiress runs the Absurdly Powerful Student Council with an iron fist), one of the substitute teachers has a thing for teenage boys, a Mafia Princess orchestrates emotionally draining bullying, one of the club leaders has his own personal clone army hidden in the basement, and there is a love-obsessed maniac running amok. Have fun!
  • Shujin Academy in Persona 5 is not only full of Gossipy Hens who spread Malicious Slander about anyone that stands out in a negative way, no matter how small it may be, its principal also allows a Sadist Teacher to bully the students and ruin their lives for petty reasons to the point of physically abusing the males and sexually harassing the females (It gets so bad that one of his victims is Driven to Suicide in a desperate attempt to get away from him), and the principal turns a blind eye to all of this simply for the fact that this sexual predator is a former Olympian athlete who is giving a lot of good publicity to the school. The principal is also willing to guilt-trip others into doing dirty, and often dangerous, job while keeping a friendly facade. After Kamoshida's downfall, things begin to improve, insofar as students not being terrorized by a vicious, narcissistic pervert is an improvement, but the students are forced to take part in community service events that not a single one fails to recognize for the PR stunts they are, as if the horrendous legacy Kamoshida left could be made up for, and the same principal who was complicit in Kamoshida's abuse remains there until the would-be dictator he was loyal to orders him murdered. Academically speaking, it's apparently a highly-regarded prep school, but it's still a rather horrible place to go to learn.

    Webcomics 
  • In El Goonish Shive, Moperville North High School is run by principal Verrückt in a somewhat crazy way — such as blowing the security budget on propaganda, so there are no sprinklers or fire alarm autodialers, but lots of motivational murals. And then it starts enforcing a dress code, because one minor fight broke out over a student's shirt, which had resolved itself amicably without teacher intervention before the faculty even found out about it.
  • Kat from Sequential Art was in one, Catch 22 included.

    Web Original 
  • PieGuyRulz had to spend some time at "University X" (which is a real-life college that he refrained from mentioning its real name), featured in his College Confessions series. He went on a 40-minute rant about his bad roommates, along with terrible instructors and cheating students who bragged about stealing toilet paper.
  • Detroit Central High School in SOTF-TV is of the budget issues variant. Played in complete contrast to the other school of SOTF-TV, Silver Dragon Academy (a prestigious private school).
  • CollegeHumor: There's a fake commercial for the Quendelton State University, where you can get A Degree in Useless in literally thousands of disciplines, renovation projects will take decades to finish, the football team is worthless, the social culture of the school could best be described as High School Part Two, tuition costs a fortune (yet the students don't get much out of their education and don't really care), and the nearby community is a complete ghost town. (Oh, and their graduate program isn't much better.)
    "If we were a good university, we wouldn't need a commercial!"
  • Worm: Winslow High School. The teachers tend to be apathetic at best, there are multiple gang members and the school could use a lot of work. Plus, there's the fact that none of the adults is willing to keep bullying under control - such as what Taylor suffers, because one of her bullies is secretly a member of the Wards, and the school gets a stipend for having her as a student.

    Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons: Springfield Elementary is regularly noted to be on a shoestring budget, mostly due to Principal Skinner (a Vietnam vet who still has flashbacks of the war and lives with his controlling mother) slashing the budget to the point that the kids drink "malk" and the meat is "Grade F". The teachers also run the mill between apathetic, incompetent or otherwise very controlling, and the few good teachers tend to either be temporary substitutes or get driven out one way or another. The occasional substitute teacher that is a tyrannical asshole also tends to arrive. Skinner also believes that almost none of the students have any future whatsoever and constantly tries to maintain discipline by bringing down their spirits and moulding them into a future of mediocrity and conformism.
  • South Park Elementary. It says a lot when one of the teachers is the bewilderingly incapable Mr. Garrison, as he hardly knows how to do his job and is most likely to traumatize his students with whatever shenanigans he comes up with.
  • Two examples from American Dad!.
    • Pearl Bailey High School is run by a perverted, psychotic, drug-addicted mad man who among other things encourages his students to fight, carries guns on school grounds, drinks, and openly asks for sex from his subordinates. While he is the worst example, the teachers themselves aren't above having sex with frogs and gang-attacking students. The football and baseball coach got the wrestling program cancelled by raping his athletes. You'll notice the program is gone but the coach isn't.
    • Groff Community College was always treated as a joke school (tuition is less than $50 a semester) but as the series went on, it became this to the nth degree. The computer lab is a small room with one outdated 90's era desktop, it pays so low all staff and administration need second jobs, some of the professors don't know what class they are teaching until they look at the syllabus and the most famous alumni is a serial killer.
  • The "Skool" from Invader Zim is regularly acknowledged as both militant and under budget. Illustrative of this are the "hall passes", from the "Dark Harvest" episode, the first being a collar that explodes upon leaving school premises and the "auxiliary hall pass" being a radiator the student is expected to lug around.
  • Chris and Meg Griffin attend Adam West (formerly James Woods) High School on Family Guy which uses the textbooks part of the trope as seen in the episode "No Chris Left Behind".
    • Speaking of textbooks, in the episode where Lois and Peter run for a spot in the school council, among her campaign promises is to replace history textbooks that refer to the Civil Rights Movement as "trouble ahead."
    • The staff isn't much better, with a Principal who places bets on fights between the students and drags his personal problems into the school. The faculty openly allows bullying and the gym teacher requires his female students to kiss him at the end of class.
  • Tom Landry Middle School in King of the Hill shows budget and policy issues that reflect the real-life public school system whenever it's brought up by Principal Moss. Examples include a shop class converted into a study room when the school couldn't afford a substitute teacher or equipment, Bunsen burners that aren't hooked up to a gas line, and newly published Texas history textbooks that tell nothing significant about the history of Texas.
  • Lawndale High School in Daria, where the paranoid principal, Ms. Li, regularly siphons off funding intended for education into elaborate, expensive, and unnecessary security and surveillance systems. She then attempts to make up the shortfall with dodgy get-rich-quick schemes and bogus sponsorship deals. All new pupils are psychologically screened, the teaching staff tends towards being either sugary idealists or burnt-out basket cases with deep-seated personal issues, and extremely bright pupils are mistrusted as they tend to ask awkward questions. Daria Morgendorffer fits as well as a fish on a bicycle, and everyone, including her, knows it.
  • CatDog had to go back to one in the episode "Back to School". However, this justifies the fact that Cat is treated as The Un-Favourite by every teacher and student in that school.
  • The Amazing World of Gumball: While the facilities in Elmore Junior High are actually pretty good for a middle school (since the backgrounds come from on a real-life high school), the staff members are the ones who are incompetent/unprofessional/poorly qualified:
    • Principal Brown somehow has had his job as principal for 20 years, despite having a fake diploma and dating one of his workers (Miss Simian), often in school and during class hours.
    • Miss Simian hates her job as teacher (mostly because she's been assaulted and ostracized for teaching subject matter considered subversive or controversial, such as how to make fire and how to use the wheel, as mentioned in "The Pest"), has very little regard for her students' safety/well-being, and is most likely still a teacher because she's dating Principal Brown.
    • Mr. Small, the guidance counselor, is more of an emotional wreck than anyone who comes to see him, dispenses useless advice (even though "The Advice" shows that, unlike most of the teachers at Elmore Junior High, he actually cares about his job and wants to be a good teacher), and is possibly a stoner.
    • The school nurse has to put up with Teri the paper bear's hypochondria, Miss Simian treating her like dirt, Gumball and Darwin trotting out tired excuses to get out of gym class, spends most of her time huddled under her desk, trying to re-evaluate her career choices, once prescribed herself heavy sedatives and time off school to get away from Teri, and is not being paid well (cf. "The Parasite", where she tells Gumball she wishes she had a six-figure salary, a cabriolet, and a pension plan).
    • The gym teacher/coach is bulky, out of shape, lets her Barbaric Bully of a daughter (Jamie) push people around during class, is most likely lying about her past as an Olympic athlete, and doesn't seem to care when a student gets hurt or can't do anything she assigns them.
    • The only somewhat competent worker at the school is Rocky, the janitor/bus driver/lost and found clerk/cafeteria worker, though even he can be oblivious and careless on the job, mostly due to listening to music on his Walkman and "The Points" revealed that he spends most of his time in the broom closet eating pizza and spray cheese while listening to rock music. He's also a terrible cook.
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, Master Yu's Earthbending school is an unsubtle parody of North American "McDojos", more interested in flattering its students by handing out meaningless belts and persuading them (or their parents) to hand over extra cash than actually producing proficient benders.
  • China, IL: The University of China, IL is called "the worst school in America". The whole student body failed their exams at the end of the semester. The theme song is pretty much a warning about how bad the school is... before adding that the only good thing about the school is the teachers.

    Real Life 
  • Yuna Kagesaki, author/artist of the manga Karin, mentions in a supplementary chapter of an early volume of the series that she attended one of the bottom 5 high schools of Japan. Among the things she remembers from her stint: there were students that were taught things they already learned in middle school, they were dismissive of their teachers, and fights were common, with one memorable incident of a student being expelled after getting into a fight with a teacher.


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