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PolitiFact Florida’s 5 top fact-checks in February
Amy Sherman
By Amy Sherman March 9, 2015

In February, the long list of GOP presidential contenders -- including Sen. Marco Rubio and former Gov. Jeb Bush -- dominated the political scene in Florida. We also saw state legislators hold hearings in advance of the March session where they are wrestling with controversial topics, including school tests and whether to allow firearms on college campuses.

Here are PolitiFact Florida’s top 5 most viewed fact-checks of February 2015, counting down to the most popular fact-check:

5. Eckerd College psychology professor Marjorie Sanfilippo: "200,000 students attempt suicide every year on college campuses." That claim was made during a Feb. 16 Florida Senate criminal justice committee hearing. The bill has passed a House and Senate panel.

That statistic was extrapolated from the American College Health Association’s most recent annual survey, which found that 1.2 percent of college and university students had attempted suicide within the past year. There are approximately 20 million students overall, which translates to about 200,000 suicide attempts. But their data is self-reported and the schools self-select to participate. In addition, a different type of survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention -- one that looked at emergency data -- found a lower rate of suicide in similar age groups, but experts said that’s to be expected because emergency data doesn’t capture attempts that don’t lead to a hospital visit. We rated her claim Half True.

4. Rubio: ISIS is "now the predominant Islamist group in Benghazi." Rubio made this claim in a Feb. 13 radio interview in Iowa. While there are myriad militias, radical militants, armed groups and even multiple governments in Libya, Islamic State’s footprint is still relatively small. Besides some activity in pockets across the country, the group holds sway in Derna, but not so much in Benghazi, experts say.

There, the Islamist group Ansar al-Sharia has been most visible among radicalized factions. Some reports say the group has formed an alliance with ISIS, but researchers dispute that, though some Ansar al-Sharia members almost certainly have defected. We rated it Mostly False.

3. Florida Badass Teachers Association: Florida students take "an array of standardized high stakes tests which eat up as much as 45 school days per year." Test days do appear to have risen in recent years, and students are not only affected by the tests they take themselves, but also by the impact of other students in their school taking tests.

However, pinpointing the number of days that students take standardized tests is difficult, because it varies widely depending by grade, school, district and other factors. Even so, critics of the amount of testing did not provide hard evidence of any student taken up with testing for 45 total days a year, much less that it is a typical result in Florida. In fact, James’ own district said that the maximum number of hours spent on such tests would equal about 44 hours -- a small fraction of the figure James cited. We rate this claim False. (The state’s testing has since drawn more fire because in early March, due to widespread problems, with the rollout of the computerized tests.)

2. Bloggers: "Students In Fla. High School Forced To Recite Islamic Prayer, Make Prayer Rugs." This makes it sound as if students were being indoctrinated into a religion, and that’s not the case. Instead, students were studying the religion of Islam as part of a world history class. According to a district investigation, pupils were assigned to make prayer rugs as an art assignment. As for reciting the pillars of Islam in class, only one student complained his class was made to read the shahada. The investigation cited a notable lack of evidence that anyone was forced to recite a prayer. We rated this claim Mostly False.

1. U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla. : One Texas city "has a law that says that women can only have six dildos." There's a law, now invalid, along those lines -- though it was intended to prevent the sale of such devices, not the ownership of them. In addition, it was a statewide law, not a city law, and more importantly, it was struck down by a federal appeals court more than six years ago. Hastings’ office did not provide supporting evidence for an existing city law that sets a dildo limit. There’s some obscurity because the law is still on the books. But experts told us that, as a practical matter, the law has no teeth, and stores today in Texas can, and do, sell more than six dildos. We rated this claim False.

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PolitiFact Florida’s 5 top fact-checks in February