The research project surveyed nearly 2000 students from Grades 7 to 9 in Brisbane about their experiences with bullying, then followed up a year later.
The most severely bullied students in the original survey were the most likely to still suffer from bullying a year later, and those who turned to a school staff member for help were even more at risk.
Students experiencing mild or moderate bullying appeared to benefit from telling a teacher.
The report’s co-author, Professor Marilyn Campbell of the Queensland University of Technology, said that teachers need to be better educated on how to handle bullying so that they don’t inadvertently make things worse.
Specifically, Campbell said that teachers can’t simply punish bullies and expect their behaviour to stop.
"Teachers need to be able to do what the student wants them to do," she said.
"The question to ask is: ‘how would you like me to help you?’, and it’s important to only give the help that the student wants. This is so difficult for teachers, who understandably feel they need to act. Sometimes their actions help, but sometimes their actions can make it worse for a student who’s already disempowered.
"If a secondary student tells you about being bullied, even if they don't know the exact path, you can talk about it with them. Propose options, figure out something that will work. Listen to them. Ask them what they want."
If changes aren’t made, Campbell warned that students may become more hesitant to report bullying.
"It is imperative that schools and school staff effectively address bullying when it first occurs," she said.
"If seeking help from a teacher is found not to be effective, or indeed counter-productive, then victimised students will be less likely to seek help in the future, with the result that the victimisation may become entrenched."
Campbell said that if telling a staff member doesn't help, students should find somebody else to talk to.
“You have to find somebody who will do what you want them to do, and you’ve got to formulate what you’re going to tell somebody, and how they can help you,” she said.
Campbell also condemned recent comments by author and principal John Marsden.
"John Marsden is promoting the classic victim blaming argument: the implication is that if you are different, then bullying is feedback for you to change. That you are only accepted if you speak English well, dress the same as the peer group, and like the same music," she said.
"By this logic, red heads should therefore dye their hair; high achieving students should act dumb at some schools or students having learning difficulties should just study more to be likeable at other schools. It is already obvious how poor this advice is from these examples. I scarcely need say how insulting it is if we apply it to the many students bullied for disabilities or for their race."