Kevin Petrie, a lecturer at Avondale College of Higher Education, studied data from more than 600 Victorian public school students and their teachers.
He said one in six children are bullied at school on at least a weekly basis, while one in 10 are active bullies.
Dr Petrie said it is crucial every principal is aware of the school's atmosphere and what can be done to improve it.
"Those schools that do have a more positive climate - better relationships, a closer sense of belonging and connectedness, and of general safety - do have lower rates of school bullying," he said.
"Schools that take that time to work on their climate or the atmosphere of their institution really do have a reduction in aggressive behaviour, including bullying."
Dr Petrie said a negative school climate means students do not feel they are valued by teachers and peers, and do not feel safe or that they belong.
He said a student questionnaire can be a useful tool for principals to gauge the school's climate.
"It really isn't something that any of us can escape from when we're in school administration, but there are ways to measure it and it is possible to do something about it," he said.
"I really think that is the key first step.
"It's really not just bullying we're dealing with.
"I would see bullying as part of this larger subset of belonging."
Topics: education, bullying, cooranbong-2265, newcastle-2300