A federal judge agreed this summer that the circumstances at Hall’s school shocked the conscience. But what is shocking, he concluded, is not necessarily illegal — even if some graduates of Detroit’s schools struggle to complete a job application.

“The conditions and outcomes of Plaintiffs’ schools, as alleged, are nothing short of devastating. When a child who could be taught to read goes untaught, the child suffers a lasting injury — and so does society,” Judge Stephen J. Murphy III wrote.

“But the Court is faced with a discrete question: does the Due Process Clause demand that a State affirmatively provide each child with a defined, minimum level of education by which the child can attain literacy?” he wrote. “The answer to the question is no.”