Published: Jan 25, 2013 1:25 PM EST

Our nation's schools must make changes to their athletic department beginning today. Students with disabilities must be given a fair shot to play on a traditional sports teams or have their own leagues.

The Education Department will make the announcement to the nation's schools today that they must include students with disabilities in sports programs or they have the option of providing equal alternatives. Education Secretary Arne Duncan says disabled students should have the same opportunity, "to benefit from the life lessons they can learn on the playing field or on the court."

Students with disabilities who want to play for their school could join traditional teams, but officials would need to make "reasonable modifications" to accommodate them. If not, the school is to create parallel athletic programs that have comparable standing to mainstream programs.

Education Department Officials emphasize that they don't intend to change sports' traditions dramatically or guarantee students with disabilities a spot on competitive teams. Instead, they insist that schools cannot exclude students based on their disabilities if they can keep up with their classmates.