Helena Flats Superintendent to Proceed to Trial on Student Assault Charges

Andy Maheras on Aug. 29 will stand trial for two counts of misdemeanor assault following an alleged altercation with a middle school student last fall. According to the school board, Maheras is set to continue on as superintendent of the small, rural school district next year.  

By Denali Sagner
Helena Flats School in Evergreen on Dec. 19, 2023. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

The superintendent of the Helena Flats School District will proceed to trial on two misdemeanor assault charges following an alleged altercation with a 12-year-old student last fall.

Helena Flats Superintendent Andy Maheras was charged last fall with assault following an Aug. 31, 2023 altercation with a middle school student. While disciplining the student for reportedly kissing another student in the hallway, Maheras allegedly grabbed the student by the face and arms and pushed him into a locker, causing the student pain.

A jury trial for Maheras has been set for Aug. 29 at 8:30 a.m. in Flathead County Justice Court. A pretrial conference will take place on Aug. 21 at 1 p.m. Maheras will be represented by Kalispell attorney Sean Hinchey.

According to court documents, Maheras has pleaded not guilty to both counts of assault. Maheras’ attorney plans to assert a school discipline defense, arguing that Maheras’ actions fell into the allowable bounds of student discipline as outlined by the state.

An Oct. 24 internal investigation conducted by the Helena Flats School District’s legal counsel found that Maheras engaged in corporal punishment during the altercation, a violation of school district policy. Per the investigation, the Kaleva Law Office found that “a preponderance of evidence” showed Maheras violated district policy, as “hurting a student by grabbing him by the face is not proper restraint but, instead, satisfies the definition of corporal punishment.”

The Helena Flats School Board reviewed the investigation on Nov. 2, 2023, at which point the board disciplined Maheras via “a letter of reprimand and directives,” and allowed him to continue his in-person work. 

In the letter, former school board chair Jessica Dyer wrote, “Andy, I cannot impress upon you enough how important it is to maintain composure and professionalism in your capacity as a school employee. This letter will serve as a reprimand for your failure to demonstrate professionalism in the work environment. If you continue to engage in unprofessional behavior, you will be subject to additional discipline, up to and including termination.”

The school board’s internal discipline process occurred three weeks before the Flathead County Attorney’s Office filed charges against Maheras.

The school board on Dec. 12 notified Helena Flats families of the charges and announced that Maheras would “be on leave pending the outcome of the criminal charges.”

Elizabeth Kaleva, attorney for the Helena Flats School District, said on March 13 that Maheras is “not on administrative leave at this time but he is working remotely.”

Maheras has attended in-person school board meetings and sporadically visits the building during school hours despite his directive to work remotely, according to parents and staff.  

Helena Flats school board chair Kevin Fritz on June 4 told the Beacon that Maheras will be staying on as superintendent for the 2024-25 school year “at this point [in] time.”

The charges against Maheras have spawned concern among parents and staff members, who at recent school board meetings have criticized the board for a lack of transparency and clarity on the future of the school’s administration. Helena Flats Principal Allison Hawes on March 12 resigned to become the principal of Ruder Elementary School in Columbia Falls.

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