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‘I can’t believe somebody actually did this’: Day care director allegedly caught on tape beating, shaking 4-year-old by the neck

Vivian Rankins allegedly attacking a 4-year-old inside of The Sunshine Child Learning Center (WSB-TV screenshot) and mugshot (Snellville Police Dept.)

Vivian Rankins allegedly attacking a 4-year-old inside of The Sunshine Child Learning Center (WAGA-TV screenshot) and mugshot (Snellville Police Dept.)

A 67-year-old woman and former day care facility director in Georgia was arrested last week after she was allegedly caught on tape physically assaulting a 4-year-old child in her care. Vivian Rankins was taken into custody on Thursday and charged with one count of felony second-degree cruelty to children, court records reviewed by Law&Crime show.

According to a press release from the Snellville Police Department, officers at about 7 p.m. on Sept. 14 responded to a report about child abuse that allegedly took place on Sept. 8 at The Sunshine Child Learning Center located in the 2800 block of West Main Street. Upon arriving at the scene, officers placed Rankins under arrest and charged her in connection to the alleged attack.

The child’s mother, Samerramise Gibson, and father, Jordan Denton, who worked tirelessly to obtain the surveillance footage that led to Rankins’ arrest, spoke with Atlanta Fox affiliate WAGA about how they came to learn about the alleged attack, how they felt seeing their son being manhandled by a day care employee, and what steps they took to expose the alleged abuse.

The video shows the victim wearing a yellow shirt and sitting on the floor while a woman who authorities say is Rankins is sitting on a chair next to him. The video is grainy and there is no sound, but it appears to show Rankins leaning over and striking the boy about five or six times on his back and head, then picking him up off of the floor by his neck or collar, grabbing him by the neck, and repeatedly shaking him before throwing him back to the ground.

The couple said they first learned about the alleged abuse from the parents of another child who attends the day care with the victim and who reportedly witnessed the attack firsthand. However, when Gibson and Denton confronted Rankins about the alleged abuse, she refused to show them the surveillance footage for six days. When they were finally allowed to see the footage, Gibson used her cellphone camera to make a video of the surveillance footage, which was being shown to them on a computer.

“It was horrible. It was horrible, I was livid. You hurt my son,” Gibson told WAGA. “I’m like looking at my son like, ‘I can’t believe somebody actually did this to you that we trusted.'”

The parents told the station that their child had been attending the day care and seeing Rankins regularly for about three years prior to the incident. Gibson also noted that all of their other children have attended the same day care.

“I’m angry,” Jordan Denton told WAGA. “There’s no 4-year-old who can do anything to make you that angry to the point where all that is happening. From picking my son up by his neck, to shaking him, to pushing him back down.”

Rankins was released from detention after posting a surety bond of $7,500, records show.

The facility released a statement to news outlets about the incident, indicating that Rankins had been relieved of her duties at the day care.

“Concerning the recent incident involving our former director, we are also deeply shocked and troubled by the incident and are committed to ensuring the safety and well-being of every child under our care,” Sunshine Child Learning said in a statement. “Our primary concern is the well-being of children, families, and staff in our center. Their safety, security, and privacy are our top priorities.”

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Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.