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Section 1983 of the Civil Rights Act permits individuals to bring private actions against state actors for “deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws.” Courts, however, have continually refused to recognize § 1983 actions to enforce the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA), which prohibits federal funding of schools that have a ”policy of denying . . . the parents of students the right to inspect and review the education records maintained by the State educational agency.” When reviewing a § 1983 suit, courts must determine whether the statute in question creates an individual right sufficient to support a § 1983 action. In Gonzaga University v. Doe, the United States Supreme Court considered whether a student may sue a private university under § 1983 to enforce provisions of FERPA when the university releases the student’s educational records to unauthorized persons. The Court determined that no right to private enforcement exists under § 1983 because § 1983 only enforces individual rights and FERPA confers only collective rights. . . .
The Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits the imposition of cruel and unusual punishments. The Eighth Amendment also bars ”excessive” punishment that is not graduated and proportioned to the offense. Courts must look to prevailing societal standards of decency when determining the Constitutional definition of “excessive.” In Atkins v. Virginia, the Court considered whether a ”national consensus” existed with regard to the execution of mentally retarded offenders, thus making such executions a violation of the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. The Court held that a “national consensus” reflected that the execution of mentally retarded criminals did not advance the goals of retribution and deterrence and thus was cruel and unusual under the Eighth Amendment. . . .