The superintendent of the Helena Flats School District has been charged with misdemeanor assault following an altercation with a 12-year-old student earlier this year.
According to an affidavit of probable cause filed Nov. 20 by Deputy Flathead County Attorney Larissa Malloy, the superintendent, Andy Maheras, allegedly grabbed the 12-year-old male student by the arms and face and pushed the student into a locker after Maheras attempted to discipline the student for kissing another student in the hallway.
Helena Flats School District families on Tuesday morning were notified about the assault charges via text message.
“The District was informed that Superintendent Andy Maheras was charged with misdemeanor assault related to an interaction with a student that occurred earlier this year. Superintendent Maheras will be on leave pending the outcome of the criminal charges. The District takes the safety of its students seriously and will be evaluating the information as it moves forward,” according to the text message, which the Beacon obtained.
Helena Flats School Board Chair Jessica Dyer told the Beacon that the board was notified of the criminal charge against Maheras last week and that the district resolved the matter during an internal investigation earlier this year.
Dyer said that Maheras is performing duties from home during paid administrative leave.
Per the affidavit, Maheras messaged School Resource Officer and Flathead County Sheriff’s Deputy Geno Cook on Sept. 25 asking if Cook could help him resolve an issue. When Cook met with Maheras, the superintendent explained that on Aug. 31 he was attempting to discipline the student and one 13-year-old female student for kissing in the hallway. Maheras told Cook that he grabbed the male student’s arm after the student attempted to walk away from him. The student, Maheras said, was instead alleging that Maheras grabbed his face and pushed him into a locker.
Maheras told Cook he remembered grabbing onto the student after the student walked away, but “he did not remember if he pushed the student into the locker and grabbed his face,” the affidavit states.
On or about Oct. 10, Flathead County Sheriff’s Office Detective Michael Carey was assigned to the case for further investigation. In video footage obtained from the school, Carey observed Maheras grabbing the student by the left arm, pulling the student towards him and then placing his left hand on the student’s back as he spoke to the student. The student could then be seen turning away from Maheras, at which point Maheras grabbed the student by the left shoulder with his arm behind the student’s back, in a “side hug type position,” according to the charging document.
Maheras could then be seen removing his arm. The student walked away towards what appeared to be lockers. Maheras turned in the same direction of the student, shaking his head, and walked towards the student before going off camera, records state.
While off camera, several students could be seen “reacting to something going on in the direction” that the student and Maheras had walked off towards. According to the affidavit, “a few looked surprised” and “some walking by the area in the hall can be seen turning to look and watch what was happening.”
According to a forensic interview of the male student, the student reported that Maheras had approached him and the 13-year-old female student and accused them of kissing in the hallway. The student said that Maheras grabbed him by the arm and spoke to him about what he observed. As the student was walking away to get a pencil out of his locker, Maheras allegedly grabbed him by the arm again, and then by both arms, squeezing his arms and pushing him into the lockers.
The student said he did not want to look at Maheras because he was scared of him, the affidavit states. Maheras then allegedly grabbed the student’s chin and squeezed his face, which the student described as the feeling of “if you were squeezing a stress ball” and said that “it hurt.” The student also reported that when Maheras turned the student’s head after grabbing his face, “his neck popped which also hurt.”
Maheras has been the superintendent of the Helena Flats School District since 2018. Before taking the position at Helena Flats, Maheras was the assistant principal of Bozeman High School for 8 years. He has also served in administrative and teaching roles throughout Washington State and was a juvenile probation officer in Walla Walla County, Washington.
Maheras in April was selected as a finalist to become the superintendent of the Columbia Falls School District, but was not hired for the position.
An omnibus hearing is set for Feb. 6 in Flathead County Justice Court.
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