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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! Ah, ha, ha, ha!"
—Clarice Kensington, It Takes Two (the Olsen twins' take on The Parent Trap)

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![1] 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.

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.

Examples of Off to Boarding School include:

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 no Naku Koro ni, 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.

Comic Books

  • 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 Stepparent. Unbeknownst to the E.S.P., 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 E.S.P. had murdered his father, seduced his mother, and taken credit for his late father's work. The E.S.P. then dies a horrid, screaming, fear-filled death that the police couldn't possibly label murder.


  • Pretty much every version of The Parent Trap.
  • The Sound of Music: "Darling, haven't you ever heard of a delightful little thing called boarding school?"
  • 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!"
  • Three Men And A Little Lady
  • 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).
  • 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.


  • Averted in Jane Eyre where Jane's aunt sends her to boarding school to get rid of her, but Jane is just as happy to leave. It really is a Boarding School of Horrors, though.
    • But played straight when Blanche Ingram wants to send Adele to boarding school.
  • 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 he 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.

Live-Action TV

  • 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.

Video Games

  • 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.

Western Animation

  • 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...
  • Also happens in one episode of 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.
  • Happens to Eliza in The Wild Thornberrys Movie.
  • 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.

Real Life

  • Joan Crawford's daughter Christina, as related in Mommie Dearest.


  1. And for the extra-bratty boy, Military School!
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