Gonzaga Univ. v. Doe, 536 U.S. 273, 2 (2002)

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274

GONZAGA UNIV. v. DOE

Syllabus

"unambiguous" intent to create individually enforceable rights, federal funding provisions provide no basis for private enforcement by 1983, id., at 17, 28, and n. 21. Since Pennhurst, the Court has found that spending legislation gave rise to rights enforceable under 1983 only in Wright v. Roanoke Redevelopment and Housing Authority, 479 U. S. 418, 426, 432, and Wilder v. Virginia Hospital Assn., 496 U. S. 498, 522- 523, where statutory provisions explicitly conferred specific monetary entitlements upon the plaintiffs, and there was no sufficient administrative means of enforcing the requirements against defendants that failed to comply. The Court's more recent decisions, however, have rejected attempts to infer enforceable rights from Spending Clause statutes whose language did not unambiguously confer such a right upon the Act's beneficiaries. See, e. g., Suter v. Artist M., 503 U. S. 347, 363; Blessing v. Freestone, 520 U. S. 329, 340, 343. Respondent's attempt to read this line of cases to establish a relatively loose standard for finding rights enforceable by 1983 is unavailing. Because 1983 provides a remedy only for the deprivation of "rights . . . secured by the [Federal] Constitution and laws," it is rights, not the broader or vaguer "benefits" or "interests," that may be enforced thereunder. Thus, the Court further rejects the notion that its implied right of action cases are separate and distinct from its 1983 cases. To the contrary, the former cases should guide the determination whether a statute confers rights enforceable under 1983. Although the question whether a statutory violation may be enforced through 1983 is a different inquiry from that involved in determining whether a private right of action can be implied from a particular statute, Wilder, supra, at 508, n. 9, the inquiries overlap in one meaningful respect—in either case it must first be determined whether Congress intended to create a federal right, see Touche Ross & Co. v. Redington, 442 U. S. 560, 576. For a statute to create private rights, its text must be phrased in terms of the persons benefited. E. g., Cannon v. University of Chicago, 441 U. S. 677, 692, n. 13. Once the plaintiff demonstrates that the statute confers rights on a particular class of persons, California v. Sierra Club, 451 U. S. 287, 294, the right is presumptively enforceable by 1983. Conversely, where a statute provides no indication that Congress intends to create new individual rights, there is no basis for a private suit under 1983. Pp. 278-286.

(b) There is no question that FERPA's confidentiality provisions create no rights enforceable under 1983. The provisions entirely lack the sort of individually focused rights-creating language that is critical. FERPA's provisions speak only to the Secretary, directing that "[n]o funds shall be made available" to any "educational . . . institution" which has a prohibited "policy or practice," 1232g(b)(1). This focus is two steps removed from the interests of individual students and parents

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