A Motlow student charged with assaulting his teacher after yawning in class says it’s the teacher who overreacted and he has statements from college officials and classmates to prove it.
“It was just a little yawn, not a big deal at all,” said Motlow student Spencer Adams. “I have statements from students who were in the class who didn’t even hear me yawn. I feel like she was calling me out the whole time.”
Motlow English teacher Elizabeth Honaker swore out a warrant against Adams on Oct. 23 for an incident that happened Sept. 7. In the warrant, she claims Adams blocked her in behind her desk and yelled profanities, placing her in fear.
Adams admits he did curse at his teacher as he collected his school materials and left the room, but he said he apologized for that. However, he said he was not going to apologize for the yawn.
“I did cuss at her and I felt bad right after I did it,” said Adams. “I know it was the wrong thing to do, but it was a heat-of-the-moment thing and I apologized to her. But she demanded I apologize for yawning and I wasn’t going to do it. I can’t help that I yawned.”
Adams said he contacted Motlow academic dean Shane Buchanan, who said he could return to class without apologizing for the yawn. However, he said Honaker was determined to make him apologize for the yawn before starting her next class Sept. 12.
“She had her husband there waiting for me in front of my computer,” said Adams, who described the husband as a big man. “He’s not an employee at Motlow and had no reason to be there. When I told her I wasn’t going to apologize she said, ‘Maybe you’d like to go talk about it in the hallway with my husband.’”
Adams says Honaker is no longer teaching the class. When contacted Thursday, Motlow College officials declined to comment on Honaker’s employment status.
In an incident report obtained by the Standard, Motlow’s academic dean interviewed two students in the class regarding the yawning incident.
“Both said that either the yawning was not loud at all or they didn’t hear him at all,” the report said. “But they both said that Ms. Honaker began yelling and both said she blew up the incident way out of proportion in their opinions.”
The report also said both classmates felt it was “completely inappropriate” for Ms. Honaker to attempt to involve her husband in the dispute.
Motlow employee Allen Sanders said Ms. Honaker became combative toward him when he tried to talk to her about the incident.
“The faculty member’s professionalism was completely gone and she had absolutely no self-control because she even became aggressive towards me by waving her finger in my face and shouting at me,” said a report signed by Sanders. “The worst part about the whole situation is that she lost her composure in front of students that are not just in her class, but the general student population of the McMinnville campus.”
Adams appeared for arraignment Tuesday and pled not guilty. His assault case is set to be heard Jan. 16.
Honaker said the student placed her in fear by his actions, even though there was apparently no physical contact. Under state law, contact does not have to occur to constitute the crime of assault. The requirement is only that the aggressor’s actions place the victim in fear of bodily injury.