On Oct. 2, 1973, a 24-year old woman walked into a Boston neighborhood store and begged a clerk for help. Her hair and clothes were burned away and her skin smoldered. Before she died the next day, she told police that six youths forced her to douse herself with gasoline and then set her afire.
The Boston police chief at the time the tragedy occurred was Montgomery County Police Chief Robert diGrazia, and although Boston Mayor Kevin White offered a $5000 reward, the youths never were apprehended.
Two days before the murder, a Boston television station broadcast the movie , "Fuss," which showed Burt Reynolds being set on fire by juvenile delinquents. The broadcast still haunts diGrazia.
"No one will ever convince me those youngsters had not seen that movie," he said recently.
Later this month, diGrazia will discuss his views at a special parent awareness program on television violence sponsored by the Montgomery County Council of Parent Teacher Associations (MCCPTA). The panel discussion will be at 8 p.m. Jan. 24 in the Educational Services Center auditorium at 850 Hungerford Dr., Rockville.
Other panel members will be James Lynagh, vice president and general manager of Washington television station WTIP, and Steve Bookshester, legislative assistant to Rep. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.)
Joyce Constantine, MCCPTA vice president, said parents throughout the county are being recruited to monitor incidents of violence on prime-time television for four-week periods as part of a national PTA anti-TV-violence campaign.
Volunteers will use monitoring forms which list every imaginable type of violence such as hitting, shoving, vandalism and killing, along with spaces to tally, when each violent incident occurs. There is additional space to record shows which depict violations of laws by law enforcement personnel.
Constantine said parent gorups in several county schools are involved in the monitoring project; others will begin in February. She said she will not know the total number of parents participating until the forms are returned to her in April. The completed forms will be sent to the Maryland State PTA, she said, which will forward them to the national group.
Jo Oberstar, chairperson for the television monitoring program at Seven Locks Elementary School in Bethesda, said 30 parents are participating there. "We are pretty much enthusiastic about it in our school," she said.
She and her husband, Rep. James L. Oberstar (D-Minn.) have four children, ages two through nine. "My husband and I can see the effect of TV on our children." During cartoons, when "animals behave like people, ridiculing and hitting each other, we see that behavior repeated," she said. "When I tell the children they can't watch certain programs, they don't respect my attitude. They ask, 'What's wrong with you? Other children watch it.' That's a sore point with me."
The main purpose of the project is not to collect data, but a large-scale attempt to teach parents how to monitor aand effectively follow up with letters, said Ann Kahn of Fairfax, Va., a member of the National PTA Television Commission. "We want parents to assume reponsibility for the programs their children watch."
If parents watch TV and document what they see, their letters will be more effective than a general complaint or turning off the set. After they learn how it is done, parents can apply the same technique to other objectionable programing, such as explicit sex or discrimination, she said.
After monitoring a television show it is important that parents write letters to the local TV station the network, advertisers and the Federal Communications Commission, said Kahn.