SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) — A recent graduate of a Vermont high school is charged with a hate crime after being accused of spray-painting an athletic field with a racial slur directed at a classmate who pushed the school to drop its "Rebels" nickname.

The Burlington Free Press reports that 18-year-old Tyler Austin faces a charge of disorderly conduct with a hate crime enhancement.

Police had declined to bring a hate crime charge because the June 5 vandalism was a property crime against South Burlington High School, not against an individual. But the prosecutor says the message targeted an individual and was motivated by race.

The teen named in the graffiti, who is black, successfully pushed for a mascot change.

Austin has pleaded not guilty. His lawyer declined comment.