Ames Middle School principal arrested, charged with OWI

An Ames Community School District administrator was arrested over the weekend on a charge of Operating While Under the Influence.

Ames Police Commander Jason Tuttle confirmed that 38-year-old Yonas W. Michael, principal at Ames Middle School, was arrested by Ames Police at 2:41 a.m. Sunday morning. “Officers were dispatched to the 2800 block of West Street at around 2:00 a.m. on a report that [Michael] had been seen staggering out of Thumbs bar and getting into a black Toyota Camry,” he said. “The witness stated that the vehicle moved a little bit before coming to a stop in front of the bar.”

According to the criminal complaint, an Ames officer arrived on-scene and observed Michael sitting in the driver’s seat of a car matching the vehicle description. The complaint states that the officer noticed keys in the ignition, the vehicle running, and the transmission in drive.

Tuttle noted that Michael did not allow the responding officer to perform any tests to determine his blood alcohol level. “He refused field sobriety tests,” Tuttle explained. “He refused a preliminary breath test. Then he refused the implied consent breath test at the police department.”

In spite of his refusal to submit to sobriety tests, the responding officer determined that there was enough evidence to arrest Michael for OWI. “The officer observed that [Michael] stumbled as he walked, he swayed while standing, and he admitted to drinking since about 7:00 p.m. that night,” Tuttle relayed. “[He said that he had been] drinking Jack and Cokes.  He had the odor of alcohol on his person.”

Even though the arresting officer did not observe Michael actually driving the vehicle, Iowa law does not require such for an individual to be charged with OWI. “You just have to be operating the vehicle,” Tuttle said. “If the ignition is on and it’s in drive, that’s considered operation.”

According to jail records, Michael was briefly held on a $1,000 bond. However, he was later released on a promise to appear in court.

Yonas Michael, 38, was arrested and charged with OWI early Sunday morning. (Photo: Story County Jail)

Michael reportedly returned to work at the middle school on Monday and addressed the student body on the incident. StoryCounty.News waited to publish this story in order to give the ACSD an opportunity to comment on Michael’s arrest. On Wednesday, ACSD’s Director of Communications Eric Smidt emailed StoryCounty.News the following statement:

“As this is a personnel issue, we have no additional comment.”

Eric Smidt – Director of Communications, Ames Community School District

Michael is currently in the third year of his second tenure with the school district. He had previously worked as a school counselor in Ames and later as the district’s Student Services Director before resigning in 2017. He then worked as a school administrator in the state of Maryland before being re-hired by the ACSD in January of 2019, this time to serve as middle school principal.

Just this summer, Drake University named Michael its 2021 Educator of Character, an Iowa Character Award given annually to an individual who shows “trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring, and good citizenship.”

Michael Yonas, principal at Ames Middle School, is awarded the 2021 Educator of Character by The Ray Center at Drake University. (Courtesy: The Ray Center, Drake University)

Michael is set for an initial court appearance on September 29 at 8:30 a.m., per court documents.


  1. Hello! For the record, Mr. Michael addressed the students at an assembly — face-to-face — rather than over the intercom. He explained he made a big mistake, and this was the hardest thing he has had to do as a school official.

    September 23, 2021
    • StoryCounty.News said:

      Thank you for the information, Christopher!

      September 23, 2021
  2. Christopher Benda said:

    FOR THE RECORD. Nowhere did it say he addressed the student body over the intercom?

    September 25, 2021
  3. Zack Marchman said:

    He should be fired. Many other employees of the school district would have been fired for this offense. Just had a friend die because of a drunk driver and now we are showing our kids that such a thing is fine as long as you apologize afterwards. Simply mistake or not, he should NOT be in the position of principal at Ames middle school. Our kids deserve better!!

    October 7, 2021

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