A Paley Center Poll: Which TV High School Would Be the LAST Place You Would Want To Attend?

Poll Results

The people have spoken, and the winner (or loser?) of our poll on the scariest high school ever to appear on TV is … Sunnydale High, from Buffy the Vampire Slayer (by a landslide, in fact, capturing thirty-three percent of the vote versus just sixteen percent for the runner-up, Gossip Girl’s Constance Billard School for Girls/St. Jude’s School for Boys). We guess Evil Firsts, creepy bald guys who go around stealing voices, a mayor who is not just corrupt but reptilian (and we mean that in the literal sense), and all sorts of other demons from hell can really bum a kid out.

Frankly, we’re a little surprised that some of the other schools in our poll didn’t fare better, particularly Bayside High (Saved by the Bell), which earned just six percent of the vote; William McKinley High (Glee), with eleven percent; and – the featured setting of our own personal anxiety dreams—East High, from High School Musical, which nearly bopped to the bottom with just eight percent of the vote (nothing personal, but we have young kids, and have been compelled to watch those films over and over and over).

The one lesson here: the power of Buffy prevails, even now, almost seven years after the final episode aired. We’re not complaining; in fact, it restores our faith in mankind. 

By Nina Zipkin

Is J.K. Rowling’s Hogwarts—with its forbidden corridors and hidden chambers, its three-headed dogs and sapient spiders, its unquiet spirits and incipient Death Eaters, its bizarre assortment of educators and, perhaps worst of all, those pesky love potions—the scariest high school ever? We ask not because we are bored and have nothing better to do, but rather in breathless anticipation of the November 19 release of the newest Harry Potter movie, part one of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows (which, admittedly is set largely outside Hogwarts, but so what?).

At its core, the Harry Potter series is—like most high-school-set stories—really about coming of age, and all the anxiety (both real and imagined) that entails. With that in mind, we have devised the following poll, in which we ask YOU to answer the following question:

Which of the following TV high schools would be the LAST place you would want to attend:

The poll starts just before Halloween, on October 28, and ends on November 19, so we can all get to opening day of the Potter movie.

Leave a comment about why you voted the way you did, and feel free to write-in schools we overlooked.

Thanks for Voting

  Bayside High
(Saved by the Bell)
One word: Screech.
Vote for Bayside High


  Constance Billard School for Girls and St. Jude’s School for Boys
(Gossip Girl)
Ah, those elite private schools. It’s all about whom you know, what you’re wearing when you’re photographed by paparazzi, and which Ivy League institution will accept you after your drug arrest. Under intense pressure to succeed from supercilious parents, kids lie, cheat, and steal, while their every scandalous move is e-blasted by the anonymous, cyber-savvy title character to everyone within the 917 area code.
Vote for Constance Billard School for Girls and St. Jude's School for Boys
  East High
(High School Musical)
The Wildcats are so earnest it hurts. Cliques vacillate between all-out warfare and cloying togetherness, and in every successive movie they seem to forget having made peace in the syrupy conclusion of the one before. What’s with the short-term memory issue? Is there something in the water? And those spontaneous song and dance numbers! There you are sitting in the lunch room, eating your fish sticks, when suddenly Troy, Gabriella, Sharpay, and rest of the gang start belting out a song and dancing all over your table. How do they all know when to do a jazz square? Where does this rhythmic hive mentality come from? No one knows.
Vote for East High

Flatpoint High School
(Strangers with Candy)
Welcome to Flatpoint High, where the inmates run the asylum. Teachers carry on affairs in school bathrooms and students are issued Tasers to tranquilize violent students. Health classes include bikini-waxing tutorials and caring for a live baby. New students are treated like lepers, violent ones are strapped to chairs, and those with mental disabilities are, per Principal Blackman’s instructions, not long for this world. And 46-year-old high school freshman Jerri Blank, a former boozer, loser, and user gone back to school, isn’t doing Flatpoint any favors by turning her peers and mentors on to a life of junkie whoredom.
Vote for Flatpoint High School


Neptune High School
(Veronica Mars)
Let’s see: bomb threats, rape, murder, mobsters, cults—at least life is never boring at Neptune High. Lucky new students have the PCH biker gang welcome wagon to look forward to: being stripped naked and duct-taped to a flagpole. When times get tough, the adults are a huge help: homicidal fathers like Aaron Echolls, swindler stepmoms like Kendall Casablancas, child-molesting moguls like Woody Goodman, and sheriff’s deputies who raid keg parties only to steal the kegs. All that, and having to analyze Alexander Pope poems too.
Vote for Neptune High School

  Smallville High School
Smallville High seems like a pleasant enough place to spend adolescence—if you ignore the alien radiation sprinkled liberally around, the hyper-baddie mutants created by said radiation, tornados and meteor showers interrupting school events, lots of staff/student fatalities, and the Luther Corporation’s money-grabbing and ethically dubious plotting. Not to mention the terrifying tradition of the “Smallville Scarecrow,” whereby the football team crucifies one unlucky freshman in a remote cornfield (lovely!). True, there’s a Superman-to-be enrolled, but that radiation stuff seems to weaken him at the most crucial moments. Sometimes at Smallville, even superpowers aren’t much help in getting through the school day…
Vote for Smallville High School

  Sunnydale High School
(Buffy the Vampire Slayer)
Most high schools only seem like they’re sitting atop the demonic realms of hell; Sunnydale actually is. In addition to coping with average, everyday teen angst—like dating and competing for the cheerleading squad—Buffy and the Scooby Gang tackled, among others, ghosts, hellhounds, trolls, witches, demons, the Initiative, and, of course, vampires. On any given day at Sunnydale High, they never knew which fresh hell they would encounter; it could be anything from a pop geometry quiz to the “hordes of Armageddon” (™ Xander).
Vote for Sunnydale High School
  Twin Peaks High School
(Twin Peaks)
Homecoming queen/cheerleader Laura Palmer—whose lifeless body is washed ashore in the opening moments of the series—lived a double life of unfathomable depravity, involving drugs, prostitution, and incest/rape, perpetrated by her lunatic dad, possessed by one of the demonic entities roaming around town. Football captain Bobby Briggs, Laura’s boyfriend, was two-timing her with the wife of an extremely jealous and extremely violent truck driver, but that’s OK because Laura was two-timing Bobby with sensitive biker guy James, who was really in love with Laura’s best friend. For extracurricular activity, some of the high school gals liked to truck on down to One Eyed Jacks, a particularly depraved (and treacherous) brothel. A fine group of law-enforcement officers endeavor to protect the town from dark, paranormal forces, but combating truancy isn’t their strong suit.
Vote for Twin Peaks High School
  William McKinley High School
Slushie wars, diva-offs, wheelchair sessions to promote empathy, football players who deride them as evidence of a “homo explosion”—how easy can life be for these sensitive souls, a ragtag bunch of overachievers, underachievers, jocks, nerds, and a pregnant, ex-communicated cheerleader, all of whom have one not-very-cool thing in common: they love to sing. Worst of all: contending with a manipulative, Madonna-obsessed nemesis, whose surliness is brilliantly articulated in the following warning to glee club adviser Will Shuster: “I will go to the animal shelter and get you a kitty cat, I will let you fall in love with that kitty cat, and then on some dark cold night I will steal away into your home and I will punch you in the face.” And those darn high F notes!
Vote for William McKinley High School
  West Beverly High School
(Beverly Hills 90210, 1990-2000)
Are we even sure these are really high school kids? Because everyone looks so . . . old. Maybe because these “teens” have dabbled in just about everything required for admission into a twelve-step program? Mostly, though, the West Beverly experience means dealing with snotty rich kids, lots of spandex to pull together an outfit, and a super-shallow dating pool (why on Earth was “most popular girl” Kelly so wanting for dates that she had to go out with a guy whose defining feature was a mullet, her best friend’s boyfriend, and then said friend’s brother?). With all this naughtiness and consumerism going on, how did anyone have time to study?
Vote for West Beverly High School



Nina Zipkin, who interned at the Paley Center the past two summers, is a junior and a history major at Bryn Mawr College, focusing on broadcast media culture and the role it plays in the representation of social and political events and movements in modern American history. When not studying, she is writing for and coediting the arts section of the Bryn Mawr/Haverford College student newspaper, the Bi-College News
Intern Priya Umachandran contributed to this poll.

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